Bengal ministers visit Sandeshkhali; fresh protests erupt in some pockets | Kolkata - Hindustan Times
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Bengal ministers visit Sandeshkhali; fresh protests erupt in some pockets

Feb 24, 2024 08:58 PM IST

A team comprising state irrigation minister Partha Bhowmick and fire and emergency services minister Sujit Bose visited some of the trouble-torn areas of Sandeshkhali on Saturday

Two ministers of the Trinamool Congress-led government in West Bengal visited the trouble-torn areas of Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas district on Saturday, even as fresh protests erupted in some pockets.

BJP Mahila Morcha workers take part in a candle light march demanding justice for the women in Sandeshkhali in Kolkata on Saturday. (ANI)
BJP Mahila Morcha workers take part in a candle light march demanding justice for the women in Sandeshkhali in Kolkata on Saturday. (ANI)

A team comprising state irrigation minister Partha Bhowmick and fire and emergency services minister Sujit Bose visited some of the trouble-torn areas of Sandeshkhali, around 80 km south east of Kolkata.

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“There are some grievances among the villagers. Their lands were grabbed and turned into fish farms. We are verifying the allegations. We will address them,” Bose told reporters.

Bhowmick and Bose visited some of the fish farms, which were earlier agricultural farms but were grabbed by local TMC strongman Shahjahan Sheikh and his brother Sirajuddin with their henchmen.

Sandeshkhali has been on the boil since early this month following allegations of land grabbing and sexual abuse of women by TMC strongman Sheikh Shahjahan. Women had hit the streets demanding the arrest of Shahjahan and his aides.

On Saturday, fresh protests broke out in Bermajur village. Women, armed with lathis and brooms, could be seen shouting slogans and demanding the arrest of Shahjahan, his brother Sirajuddin and their associates. Protests took place in Haldarpara and Majherpara areas of Bermajur.

Most of the women protestors had their faces covered by saree or towel. They feared that if they get identified Shahjahan and his aides may attack their families later.

“We have no faith in police. They have been turning a blind eye all these years and have now come to placate us asking us to lodge complaints,” said a village woman.

Some protestors tried to attack a local TMC leader Binay Sardar and his family members in Haldarpara. Other villagers, however, rescued them. Sardar is known to be close to Surajuddin.

Bermajur has been witnessing protests over the past three days. Earlier, women protestors had set ablaze two thatched huts near the fish farms owned by Shahjahan’s brother Sirajuddin. He was the TMC’s anchal president.

“Sirajuddin has been already removed from the party after the allegations surfaced against him. He has even agreed to return the land to the aggrieved farmers,” said Sukumar Mahata, TMC MLA of Sandeshkhali.

Bhowmick and Bose visited the villages and spoke with the village women trying to explain why Shahjahan couldn’t be arrested even though police have arrested his aides Uttam Sardar and Shibaprasad Hazra.

“Surely Sardar and Hazra have done some illegal things. The party and the state administration have taken steps. TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee has said that if the state government gets a nod from the court, Shahjahan will be behind bars in just 10 days. If the TMC can oust a senior leader like Partha Chatterjee, such low-profiles leaders will also not be spared,” said Bhowmick.

Meanwhile, the government has received more than 500 complaints related to land grabbing from villagers of Sandeshkhali over the past one week.

“We have received more than 1,200 complaints in the government camps that were set up in villages of Sandeshkhali block – II. Around 500 complaints were of land grabbing while others were related to various government schemes. The camps started on February 18 and will continue till February-end,” said a senior official of Sandeshkhali block II.

More such complaints also poured in at the district magistrate’s office of North 24 Parganas. Police have also set up separate camps to receive complaints from villagers.

“Bhowmick knows very well that his party may oust him but will not act against leaders like Shahjahan who ensures the party’s victory in Sandeshkhali block. The TMC is trying to douse the flames by sending ministers. People are not going to accept their false promises anymore,” said Samik Bhattacharya, BJP spokesperson.

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