ANI Photo | “If a woman dared oppose or stand up…”: Sandeshkhali women recount plight, demand arrest of Shahjahan’s siblings

Women from the tribal and Dalit communities in Sandeshkhali opened up about the alleged atrocities perpetrated on them by suspended and jailed TMC strongman Sheikh Shahjahan and his henchmen, demanding that his two brothers be arrested as well in connection with the incidents.
In a ‘tell-all’ interaction with media persons at the Constitution Club in the national capital on Friday, the Sandeshkhali women shared their plight while demanding the arrest of Shahjahan’s brothers–Shaikh Siraj and Alamgir, who they claimed were threatening the victims of the alleged atrocities.
Detailing the nature of the ‘atrocities’, the delegation of women from the island in the North 24 Parganas district alleged that over the past several years, Shahjahan, who was arrested in connection with the attack on an ED team after reportedly being in the wind for close to two months, exploited them physically, economically and socially along with his aides.
“If a woman dared oppose or stand up to the TMC leader (Shahjahan) or his associates, her family members were beaten up and their children threatened with murder,” one of the Sandeshkhali women alleged.
They informed further that teams from the National Scheduled Tribe Commission, Scheduled Caste Commission and Women’s Commission also visited Sandeshkhali, promising justice to the wronged women, but couldn’t as the Bengal government continued to give ‘protection’ to the strongman and his aides.
They claimed that while the suspended TMC strongman was in CBI custody, his henchmen were still roaming Sandeshkhali, threatening women.
The women alleged further that Shahjahan’s siblings were threatening the victims of the alleged atrocities, saying no one will stand in their support once the fury over the Sandeshkhali incidents abates and the media and courts shift focus to other issues.
The aggrieved women said that an ambience free of terror cannot be created in Sandeshkhali as long as Shahjahan’s brothers remain on the loose. They claimed that such was the clout wielded by the jailed strongman and his aides that even the police and the local administration worked at their behest.
“The brief for Sheikh Shahjahan’s men was to grab the land of tribals and make them submit to their whims and dictates. If anyone raised his voice against him, TMC goons would beat him up or pull out weapons, threatening to kill them,” another woman from Sandeshkhali alleged.
They added that there was no hope of ‘justice’ till Shahjahan’s brothers are brought to book.
They claimed further that their children, family members and loved ones were constantly receiving murder threats, adding that the TMC government is still busy shielding ‘criminals’ instead of providing help and succour to the ‘victims’.
“The police have not even imposed sections of the Prevention of Atrocities and Protection of Civil Rights Act, which is necessary to protect women from SC and ST communities who are facing oppression,” another woman said.
Earlier in the day, as many as 11 ‘victims’ of the Sandeshkhali violence and atrocities, including five women, met President Droupadi Murmu at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, seeking her intervention “to safeguard the rights of SC and ST women” in the island.
Dr. Partha Biswas, the director for the Centre for SC/ST Support and Research, who accompanied the visiting Sandeshkhali delegation at Rashtrapati Bhavan, said the ‘victims’ submitted a memorandum to President Murmu.
In the memorandum, the ‘victims’ urged the President to restore the rights of the residents of Sandeshkhali.
It stated that the desired action by the President will not only bring solace and a measure of respite to the ‘oppressed’ people of Sandeshkhali but also set a precedent for other marginalised communities across the country.
The women of Sandeshkhali erupted in protest and came out on the streets earlier, accusing expelled TMC MLA Sheikh Shahjahan and his aides of grave excesses and atrocities.
Multiple women on the island accused Shajahan and his aides of “land-grab and sexual assault” under coercion

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