NCW Chief Accuses Mamata Government of Silencing Women’s Voices

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GG News Bureau
New Delhi, 22nd Feb. 
Sandeshkhali village of North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal is in the headlines these days. Here many women have accused local Trinamool Congress leader Shahjahan Shaikh and his supporters of land grabbing and sexual harassment. The opposition BJP is raising questions on the Mamata Banerjee government of the state regarding these allegations. Meanwhile, National Commission for Women (NCW) Chairperson Rekha Sharma has also accused the West Bengal government of suppressing the voice of women in Sandeshkhali and demanded imposition of President’s rule in the state.

The situation in Sandeshkhali is terrible

NCW President Rekha Sharma said, “After talking to the women of the area, I came to know that the situation in Sandeshkhali is terrible. Many women narrated their stories. One of them said that she was raped inside the TMC party office. We will also mention this in our report. Our demand is that President’s rule should be imposed in Bengal.”

 

Women Commission team visited Sandeshkhali

Sharma declined to comment on questions related to TMC’s allegations of working under the influence of BJP. Sharma said, “Let them say whatever they want, I don’t want to comment on it.” A delegation led by NCW chairperson Rekha visited violence-hit Sandeshkhali during the day. Rekha said that her visit was to instill confidence among the women of the violence-affected area, so that many of them come out and start speaking their minds.

Attempt to suppress women’s voice

Rekha Sharma alleged that the Mamata Banerjee government is trying to suppress the voices of women, so that the truth cannot come out. Soon after reaching Sandeshkhali, Rekha told reporters, “I am in Sandeshkhali the whole day to listen to the women. But the culprits should be arrested. Once (Shahjahan) Sheikh is arrested, I am sure more women will come forward with their complaints. We have to instill confidence in them. I will talk to the police.”

 

Following her visit to Sandeshkhali, the NCW Chairperson hurried to meet with Governor C.V. Ananda Bose, who today inaugurated a “Peace Room” at Raj Bhavan to provide sanctuary to the marginalized women of Sandeshkhali.

Women’s anger over Shahjahan Sheikh

In Sandeshkhali of North 24 Parganas district, a large number of women had accused senior TMC leader Shahjahan Shaikh and his supporters of forceful land grab and sexual harassment. The TMC leader is absconding after a mob attacked Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials who had gone to raid Sheikh’s premises on January 5 in connection with the ration scam. Last week, a two-member team of the Commission took stock of the situation in the area and submitted its report, after which Rekha Sharma visited Sandeshkhali. The NCW chairman also alleged that neither the District Magistrate nor the Superintendent of Police were present there to meet him.

Police-administration is not listening to complaints

Rekha said, “The administration and the police are neither listening to the complaints of women nor doing anything. Only one woman has come forward and recorded her statement before the District Magistrate. We want more and more women to come forward.” He said, “Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did not allow her officials to meet the teams of central agencies because she is trying to hide the truth, but the truth will come out.”

Using bamboo sticks, brooms, and gheraos, women demonstrated outside the local police stations, calling for Shajahan, Shibaprasad Hazra, to be arrested right away.

Two members of NCW had visited the affected area

Last week, two members of the NCW had visited the affected area and submitted a report “exposing the negligence and collusion” of the Bengal government and law enforcement officials. Rekha said, “We want to talk to the victims. After this we will meet the Governor of West Bengal and then the President in New Delhi. If even one incident has happened, it is extremely shameful.” He alleged that the Trinamool Congress government was not allowing the state administration to cooperate with central agencies.

Protests and a political blame game followed the allegations

The protesting women’s burning down of three of Hazra’s poultry farms, which they claimed were constructed on land that had been taken by force from nearby villagers, last Friday marked a turning point in the situation. As a result, Bengali opposition parties intensified their calls for the quick arrest of Shajahan and his men. While some TMC leaders asserted that Shajahan was falsely implicated by the opposition parties, who have united in anticipation of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the BJP, CP(IM), and the Congress charged that the ruling TMC administration has been “giving protection” to Shajahan and his men.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee responded to these events by saying that the guilty parties had been imprisoned. She had stated that the situation was being closely watched and that the appropriate actions were being taken. On the day that Bose visited Sandeshkhali to assess the state of law and order there, Banerjee made her statement.

Further, in response to Sharma’s accusations, the Trinamool Congress labeled the NCW visit as “politically motivated” and questioned why the commission hadn’t acted with the same urgency in States run by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“Why didn’t she go to Morena, Madhya Pradesh, where a pregnant woman was set on fire after being gang-raped? When female wrestlers protested against the BJP MP’s alleged sexual misconduct, why didn’t the NCW take action? Senior State Minister Shashi Panja questioned, “Why did the commission ignore complaints of atrocities against women in Manipur?”

She asserted that numerous people have been arrested in the area and that the West Bengal government has taken all necessary action to control the situation. Vice-President of the Trinamool Congress for the State, Jaiprakash Majumdar, stated, “The commission should act impartially and should not act as extended offices of the BJP.”

How did it begin?

Everything began on a chilly, sleepy January 5 morning when the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raided the Sandeshkhali home of TMC strongman Shajahan Sheikh, who is currently on the run in connection with a multi-crore ration distribution scam.

Before the men from the central probe agency were able to flee from the village, which is located about 74 kilometers from the city, Shajahan’s men in the area not only stopped the ED officers from entering his home but also attacked them.

Shajahan, a member of Zilla Parishad and regarded as the last word in Sandeshkhali in the district’s Basirhat subdivision, has been out of the picture ever since, although his close associates asserted that he is “very much in control of things” in the area.

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