West Bengal: TMC Leader Accused of Mass Rape

The women of West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali village have accused Mamata Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress (TMC's) leader Shahjahan Sheikh, his friends & supporters of allegedly torturing & raping th

The Sandeshkhali village of West Bengal is going through some turbulent times and has been in the news for nearly a month. The village is witnessing one of the worst mass violence & implementation of Section 144.

It all started when the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raided Mamata Banerjee’s party - All India Trinamool Congress (TMC's)’ leader Shahjahan Sheikh’s house in Sandeshkhali. Sandeshkhali is predominantly inhabited by people belonging to SC and other backward communities but Shajahan is popularly known as its "betaj badshah (or brazen king)" for his influence and alleged atrocities. According to reports, Shahjahan was allegedly involved in a multi-crore ration distribution scam and therefore ED decided to raid his house on 5th January 2024. When the ED team reached Shahjahan’s Sandeshkhali house, almost 200 Shahjahan’s supporters reportedly surrounded them, vandalized their car, and obstructed them from conducting their operations. The ED officers were physically assaulted by the mob when they tried entering Shahjahan’s house. 3 officers were seriously injured and the team had to escape the village. The ED accompanied by heavy security forces & 120 personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) then conducted the raid on 24th January 2024 in the presence of local and state police officers. But the ED couldn’t find Shahjahan anywhere because by then he had run away and has been absconding since.


After this incident, local women in large numbers came out in the open and alleged that Shajahan and his party members & goons forcibly grabbed their land for prawn cultivation & tortured, sexually harassed & raped them for several years. One of the many local women, who kept their faces covered to hide her identity fearing attack by Shajahan and his associates said "Party (TMC) men would survey every home and if there was any beautiful woman, especially a new wife or a young girl, they would take them to the party office. They will keep that woman there night after night till they are satisfied," The women said that the absence of Shajahan has given them the courage to speak about the torture they have been undergoing for several years. The women also revealed that apart from Shajahan, his close aides and TMC’s co-leaders Uttam Sardar and Shibaprasad Hazra were also involved in the abuse. The women also said that even their husbands were unable to do anything and many times TMC members would kidnap their husbands and thrash them if the women didn’t cooperate with them. One of the women said “One might be the husband, but he will not have his rights on her. One would have to let go of his wife. We are unable to live here. There is always a fear of being tortured or sexual molestation. We want safety. Most of our men have left the village and are working in other states.” According to the women, even the local police & administration were also of no help because they sided with the TMC goons and even facilitated (make something happen) the systemic rape they had been facing for years. If women spoke up against Shahjahan, they were attacked by him and his men in the presence of the local police. They hit the women, their husbands and even their small children.

Now, the women protested with bamboo sticks, and brooms. They gathered at the local police station demanding the immediate arrest of Shajahan, Uttam & Hazra and denied leaving the police premises until the case was registered. Tension increased on 9th February 2024 when the protesting women burnt down three poultry farms owned by Hazra, which they claimed were built on a piece of land forcibly grabbed from local villagers and demonstrated for justice. This led the opposition parties to escalate their demands to arrest Shajahan and his men immediately. The BJP, CP(IM), and Congress alleged that the ruling TMC government has been "giving protection" to Shajahan and his friends. On 13th February 2024, seeing the protests not quieting down but turning further violent, the Calcutta High Court imposed Section 144 in Sandeshkhali and asked the state to deploy more security forces and drones and CCTV cameras for close monitoring. It has also asked the TMC government to submit a report on allegations of sexual assault on women “at gunpoint” and transfer of tribal land at Sandeshkhali by 20th February 2024. The videos of Sandeshkhali women narrating their stories and protesting heavily have gone viral on social media. The protests of the women forced West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose to cut short his Kerala trip & review the situation in Sandeshkhali. After talking to the women there, Bose described their stories & the incidents as "ghastly, shocking, shattering" and called the full act a shame for a civil society. Bose has also submitted a report to the Ministry of Home Affairs, blaming the local law enforcers for working along the "criminal politicians" in Sandeshkhali. This is when West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee finally decided to speak on the matter. She denied all the allegations & stated that she has "never allowed injustice". She claimed that those who were responsible have been put behind bars. She assured that the situation was being monitored closely and necessary steps were being taken. She further went on & blamed BJP for creating troubles in Sandeshkhali. The West Bengal Police imposed prohibitory orders in Sandeshkhali and set up barricades on approach roads to Sandeshkhali to prevent political personalities from visiting the place. On 14th February 2024, BJP's West Bengal President Sukanta Majumdar got injured when his party members clashed with the police for not letting them go to Sandeshkhali. They also stopped the six-women BJP delegation led by Union minister Annapurna Devi. However, a team of the Women's State Commission were allowed to visit Sandeshkhali on 12th February 2024. They spoke to the local women, and submitted a report to the Chief Minister's Office (CMO). The National Commission for Scheduled Caste (NCSC) was also allowed to visit Sandeshkhali. They made a report on the matter & submitted to President Murmu with the recommendation to impose President rule in West bengal. On 14th February 2024, TMC claimed in their post on X (Twitter) "After extensive enquiries, the State Women's Commission confirmed that no allegations of rape of local women had been received. Even members of the National Commission of Women delegation corroborated this observation." On 15th February 2024, TMC claimed the alleged incident is their biggest opposition - BJP’s PR campaign for the upcoming elections. After this, BJP MLAs staged a walk out in the West Bengal assembly. They shouted slogans against the TMC government and demanded Mamata Banerjee’s resignation. On 16th February 2024, Supreme Court lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking a court-monitored CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) or SIT (Special Investigation Team) probe into the Sandeshkhali case in his personal capacity. The PIL also seeks compensation for the victims and strict action against officials of the West Bengal Police for alleged abandonment of the duty. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the plea after it was mentioned for urgent listing by Srivastava but rejected it on 19th February 2024 because the Calcutta High Court had taken cognisance of the matter. Union Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Irani alleged that West Bengal CM Mamata Bannerjee is responsible for "genocide" of Hindus and has now allowed party worker to raping Hindu women. BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia & leader Shehzad Jai Hind also spoke highly against Mamata Banerjee & her government. The West Bengal state government has made a 10-member team under senior IPS officers to investigate the incidents of Sandeshkhali.In the latest update on the topic, one of Shahjahan’s accomplice Shibu Hazra was arrested on 19th February 2024. However, the absconding Shahjahan talks everyday with his own family members but the police are unable to trace him because allegedly Mamata Banerjee has shielded him because of the upcoming elections.