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Sandeshkhali: TMC leaders' properties torched, MLA thrashed

Last updated on: February 23, 2024 19:57 IST

Fresh protests rattled the troubled enclave of Sandeshkhali in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district on Friday, as enraged locals vented their ire by torching the property of Trinamool Congress leaders accused of tormenting villagers besides staging demonstrations against perceived police inaction towards the perpetrators.

IMAGE: Poultry and fish farms set on fire allegedly by villagers in Sandeshkhali, in North 24 Parganas. Photograph: ANI Phot

During the unrest, residents barricaded roads with logs and set them on fire to block the entry of police vehicles into Jhupkhali area of Sandeshkhali.

Tensions persisted for the second consecutive day, with reports of TMC leaders being assaulted and their residences being ransacked.


Responding to the situation, Director General of Police (DGP) Rajeev Kumar, for the second consecutive day, went to the troubled region and pledged firm action against those responsible for the unrest.

Armed with sticks, protestors set fire to thatched structures near a fishing yard in Belmajur, directing their anger towards the elusive TMC leader, Shahjahan Sheikh, and his brother Siraj. One of the torched structures belonged to Siraj, it was revealed.

"For years, police did nothing. That is why we are doing everything to reclaim our land and honour," a demonstrator said.

Protesters also broke through fences and physically assaulted TMC leader Ajit Maity in the presence of media crew. Maity is an MLA from Paschim Medinipur's Pingla assembly constituency.

Visuals from the site showed villagers ransacking Maity's house and beating him with slippers.

Subsequently, law enforcement personnel intervened and tried to pacify the agitated crowd.

Villagers in Bermajur also tried to prevent police vehicles from passing through the area.

"We did not stop them initially. We just wanted to talk to them about why they were detaining our boys without any charge. They did not listen. The police vehicle ran over a woman's feet. We want to talk to them," a woman protester told ANI.

"Is there any law and order in this country? The police tried to run over a girl. If the public had not known the girl would have died," another protester said.

"Sheikh Shahjahan, Sirajuddin have confiscated all our plots of land. We were protesting. The police forcefully drove through protesters. One of the protesters broke their leg in the process," another protester said.

Later in the afternoon, DGP Kumar arrived in the locality and engaged in discussions with the locals.

"Please register your complaints. We will take action. We will establish a police camp here. However, I earnestly request you not to take the law into your own hands," Kumar told the residents.

Speaking to reporters, Kumar reiterated, "Police will take stern action. We are committed to establishing the rule of the law in the area."

He affirmed that strict measures would be taken against any person resorting to vigilantism.

Kumar said police and administration had initiated the process of reclaiming land unlawfully seized from villagers.

As police began efforts to apprehend villagers involved in arson and property destruction, women who had accused the absconding TMC leader, Shahjahan Sheikh, and his associates of sexual abuse spanning years, took to the streets.

They staged protests, even resorting to lying down in front of vehicles to prevent the police from taking away their men.

"Police have not been able to arrest Shahjahan Sheikh but are now apprehending our men. Who will protect us if police take away our men? All these years, police were nowhere to be found," a protester lamented.

These renewed protests unfolded a day after the region witnessed turmoil and arson, fueled by accusations against local TMC leaders for sexual misconduct and forcible land acquisition.

DGP Kumar had previously visited Sandeshkhali on Wednesday, engaging in deliberations with police officials. He spent the night there before returning to Kolkata on Thursday.

The unrest in Sandeshkhali stems from allegations against Sheikh and his supporters regarding land encroachment and sexual assault.

Shahjahan has remained elusive since a mob attack on Enforcement Directorate officials on January 5.

The TMC, meanwhile, blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party for trying to aggravate the situation in Sandeshkhali by foiling every effort to restore peace and normalcy in the area even as the administration and police are working overtime to reach out to every villager to address their grievances.

Addressing a press conference in Kolkata, senior minister Chandrima Bhattacharya said the administration has full control over the situation and is diligently addressing every complaint and grievance of villagers.

"The administration is in charge, with BDO and police officers working tirelessly. Every complaint is being thoroughly examined and promptly addressed. However, whenever there is a semblance of normalcy being restored, BJP leaders such as Sukanta Majumdar and Locket Chatterjee rush in to exacerbate the situation. The BJP shows no concern for the women of Sandeshkhali; their only agenda seems to be to sow chaos for electoral gains," she said.

However, West Bengal BJP Mahila Morcha president Falguni Patra said, "The police is protecting those who are the oppressors. And, the people who are being looted, police are committing atrocities against them. This is the state of West Bengal. No woman, student, nobody is safe here. Everyone is being looted of their land and self-respect."

-- with inputs from ANI

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