As trouble brews in Sandeshkhali, police warn protesters not to take law into their hands

Feb 23, 2024

North 24 Parganas (West Bengal) [India], February 23 : Tensions flared up in Sandeshkhali as protesters from Bemojur village panchayat area set fire to a store room on Thursday in a fit of rage and even thrashed a Trinamool Congress MLA with slippers.
"Today in Bemojur village panchayat area, protesters set fire to a store room. The police team reached the spot, doused the fire and dispersed the crowd. We want to say to the people of Sandeshkhali that this lawlessness won't be tolerated. Whoever takes the law into their own hands, the police will take action against them. They can give their complaints to the camps set up by the district administration or at the police station. We assure that we will take action on the complaints as per the law," Basirhat Superintendent of Police Hossain Mehedi Rehman told ANI.
West Bengal Director General of Police (DGP) Rajeev Kumar who arrived in Sandeshkhali for the second consecutive day said that the chief role of the police is to establish "rule of law" in the troubled island but warned that no one should take the law into their own hands.
"All of us need to establish rule of law here. Rule of law does not mean that I have been wronged and so I will take the law in my hands. We have to follow procedure and we are doing it everywhere," the DGP told reporters at Sandeshkhali on Friday.
"I was attacked because I am a TMC leader. My bike was vandalised and they also attacked my wife. My daughter has exams but she is scared now that we will get attacked again. They also set fire to one of my storage rooms (Aara Ghar). They were making false allegations about me. Let there be a probe and if I am guilty, police can arrest me," TMC MLA Ajit Maity told ANI on Friday after being physically assaulted by an angry mob in the presence of a media crew.
Meanwhile, an FIR was registered in Bhowanipur Police Station against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders for allegedly hurling the Khalistani slur against a Sikh IPS officer. This came after a confrontation between protesting BJP workers and the police at Dhamakhali, in which a senior police official lost his cool when some protesters allegedly called him "Khalistani."
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? Police tried to run over a girl. If the public had not known the girl would have died," another protester told ANI.
"Sheikh Shahjahan, Sirajuddin have confiscated all our plots of land. We were protesting. Police forcibly drove through protesters. One of the protesters broke their leg in the process," another protester said.
"Police is protecting those who are the oppressors. And, police are committing atrocities against people who are being looted. This is the state of West Bengal. No woman, student, nobody is safe here. Everyone is being looted of their land and self-respect," West Bengal BJP Mahila Morcha president Falguni Patra said.
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Locket Chatterjee was detained by the police on her way to Sandeshkhali.
"I was detained by police without any information. I will go to Sandeshkhali. Why has Mamata Banerjee not spoken in support of the women in Sandeshkhali? If Mamata Banerjee being a woman CM has not gone there, then we have to go there being a public servant," Chatterjee told ANI on Friday.
In another instance, the BJP has clarified that Sabyasachi Ghosh who was arrested on charges of running a prostitution racket in Howrah is not associated with the party.
"It has come to our attention that WB Police has arrested one Sabyasachi Ghosh, on charges of running a prostitution racket in Howrah and claims that he is a BJP leader. BJP West Bengal denies having any association with the accused. We wish to put on record that Sabyasachi Ghosh holds no position in the party," the Howrah branch of the BJP said in a statement on Friday.
The women protestors in Sandeshkhali are seeking justice against alleged atrocities committed by TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan and his aides.
A large number of women in Sandeshkhali had accused Trinamool Congress strongman Shajahan Sheikh and his supporters of "land-grab and sexually assaulting" them under coercion. Shahjahan continues to evade arrest, with both state police and central agencies unable to trace him.