PM Modi To Visit Bengal, Meet Women Who Have Alleged Sex Harassment In Sandeshkhali: Sources

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PM To Visit Bengal, Meet Women Who Have Alleged Sex Harassment: Sources

PM Narendra Modi will be meeting women from Sandeshkhali during his Bengal visit next month

Amid the political storm in West Bengal over the Sandeshkhali issue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be meeting some women from the island who have levelled allegations of sexual harassment and extortion against leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress. The Prime Minister will meet some women from Sandeshkhali on March 6 when he visits Bengal for a key meeting of the BJP’s women’s wing ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, sources have told NDTV.

A nondescript island in Bengal’s North 24 Parganas, Sandeshkhali has been catapulted to national spotlight after the BJP accused local Trinamool leaders of sexually harassing women on the island. When NDTV visited Sandeshkhali and spoke to residents, many of them accused local Trinamool strongman Sheikh Shahjahan and his aides of land grab and extortion. Some of them alleged that Shahjahan’s aides would extort from them money received under welfare schemes of the state and the Centre. The strongman has been missing for over a month now after a team of Enforcement Directorate (ED), which had gone to raid his home in a corruption case, came under a mob attack.

Adding the meeting with women from Sandeshkhali to the Prime Minister’s itinerary makes it clear that the BJP wants to base its 2024 campaign in Bengal on this issue. The BJP had made massive gains in Bengal in the last general election, adding 16 seats to its 2014 tally. It hopes to keep the momentum going in the upcoming polls.

The BJP, now the main Opposition in Bengal, has accused the Mamata Banerjee government of trying to hush up the issue and shielding Sheikh Shahjahan. The Trinamool chief has responded by accusing the BJP of instigating unrest on the island.

The allegations have also prompted probes by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and the National Human Rights Commission. While the Scheduled Tribes panel visited the island today, the NHRC has said it will depute a team to ascertain facts.

The Sandeshkhali issue has reached the doorstep of the judiciary, with the Calcutta High Court clearing BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari’s visit to the island on Tuesday and pulling up the state government for its failure to arrest Shahjahan so far.

“We have seen the grievances, the women of the area have flagged issues, there has been some land grabbing. This person (Sheikh Shahjahan) cannot be on the run. The state cannot support it. In the suo motu matter, we will ask him to surrender here. He can’t be defying law,” Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam said Tuesday.¬†“If one person can hold the entire population to ransom, the ruling dispensation should not support him. He is just a representative of the public. He is bound to do good to the public,” he added.

The state police have said a total of 17 people have been arrested in the aftermath of the allegations. While Shahjahan’s close aides Uttam Sardar and Shibu Hazra have been taken into custody, Shahjahan continues to be on the run. The police have said they are also holding camps on the island so that local residents can file complaints of land grab and extortion.

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