"Situation horrifying...one person still ruling island": Independent central team member after visiting Sandeshkhali

Mar 03, 2024

Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], March 3 : Amid the raging political war of words between the ruling TMC and the Opposition BJP over the arrest of strongman and key Sandeshkhali-accused Sheikh Shahjahan, the Centre's independent fact-finding team on Sunday visited the island in Bengal's North 24 Parganas district.
The Calcutta High Court had earlier allowed the fact-finding team to visit Majherpara, Natunpara, and Naskarpara neighbourhoods of Sandeshkhali.
The court nod came after the central team, led by the former Chief Justice of the Patna High Court, was stopped on their way to Sandeshkhali and arrested. They were brought to the Kolkata Police headquarters in Lalbazar before being let off.
Speaking to ANI on the sidelines of their visit to Sandeshkhali on Sunday, a member of the independent fact-ficting team labelled the prevailing situation in the island as 'horrifying'.
"In two separate cases, 185 people were falsely implicated for burning down poultry farms as they or their wives had dared to raise their voices (against Shahjahan Sheikh and his henchmen). They were deliberately victimised for coming out against the ruling party. Thankfully, however, they have now been released. The situation here is horrifying. I have seldom sensed such a palpable ambience of terror anywhere else in the country," a member of the fact-finding committee told ANI.
Claiming that the TMC strongman was still running writ in Sandeshkhali through fear, the member added, "One person is still ruling this island as the undisputed boss and threatening locals. The families, including those that dared to speak up against the TMC and Shahjahan Sheikh, are broken and shattered. Many men are being put behind bars on trumped up charges while their wives are being taken to the police station after midnight. Even their land have been snatched away. If a shopkeeper does not pay Rs 20,000-25,000 (in cut money or commission) per month, then his shop is seized. In one case, illegal structures were raised on a snatched piece of land with money that was collected in this manner. The plot was sold off thereafter. Such incidents tell us a lot about the state of affairs here and should serve as an eye-opener."
"We should commend the women here for summoning the courage to rise against the excesses perpetrated on them," the member added.
Earlier, on Sunday, the independent fact-finding team reached Kolkata from where they proceeded to Sandeshkhali.
Rajpal Singh, a member of the team and former inspector general of Haryana Police, told ANI, "We will go to three sites at Sandeshkhali that the high court allowed us to visit."
On February 28, the Calcutta High Court allowed the six-member fact-finding team, led by the former CJI of the Patna High Court, to visit Sandeshkhali.
The court, in its order, stated that the fact-finding team will visit Majherpara, Natunpara, and Naskarpara localities of Sandeshkhali.
Earlier, on February 25, the members of the central team were arrested at Bhojerhat and brought to Kolkata.
Led by former Chief Justice of Patna High Court Justice, L Narsimha Reddy, the independent panel also comprises former IPS officer Raj Pal Singh, former NCW member Dr Charu Wali Khanna, advocates OP Vyas and Bhavna Bajaj and a senior journalist.
Sandeshkhali came to a boil and hit national headlines after hundreds of women in the island came out on the streets against Shahjahan Sheikh, accusing him of perpetrating sexual abuse and other excesses on them along with his henchmen.