Rajat Sharma


AKBWest Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had to face embarrassment on all fronts over the issue of atrocities on women in Sandeshkhali. Mamata Banerjee tried her best to avoid handing over Sandeshkhali strongman Shahjahan Sheikh to CBI, despite Calcutta High Court order. The Supreme Court refused an urgent hearing on her government’s appeal against HC order. The High Court issued a contempt of court notice to the state chief secretary, police director-general and additional director-general of state CID for defying the court orer. In spite of all these, West Bengal Police handed over Shahajahan to CBI only when two hours elapsed after the High Court deadline of 4.30 pm on Wednesday. In Barasat, 85 km away from Sandeshkhali, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lashed out at Mamata Banerjee and asked the people of Bengal to teach her party a lesson for committing “sins” against women. In a hard-hitting speech at Barasat rally, Modi said, Mamata does not care ‘Ma (mother), Maati (soil), Maanush (human beings)’, and was trying to shield a criminal, who dishonoured the mothers and sisters of Sandeshkhali. Modi also met five women victims from Sandeshkhali after the rally and listened to their woes. Sandeshkhali has now become a major issue in the Lok Sabha elections in Bengal. In sharp contrast to the ‘V’ sign shown by Shahjahan Sheikh outside Barasat court, he was looking crestfallen on Wednesday when the CBI team took him away from the state police headquarters. Shahjahan Sheikh used to say in his public meetings that CBI and ED will not be able to harm him. He had also threatened to “skin” BJP workers alive and break their teeth. Any leader on a local level can never issue such threats unless he gets protection from the chief minister. Mamata Banerjee may be realizing now why her government tried to protect a criminal for 56 days and tried to hide his crimes. On one hand, Mamata faced the displeasure of courts, and on the other hand, she sent a wrong political message. The result was: BJP got a handle to beat Mamata’s party easily. BJP is going to make Sandeshkhali a big issue in the forthcoming elections and will tell the voters how Didi gave protection to a criminal who committed sexual abuses against women. Modi named his Barasat rally as ‘Naari Shakti Vandan’. At the rally, Modi spoke for seven minutes on Sandeshkhali and said, these atrocities has brought shame to the nation. He said, “the women of Bengal will never tolerate Mamata government which tried to protect the criminal who committed excesses on the women of Sandeshkhali”. After the rally, Modi consoled the women victims and said that the Centre would try its best to secure justice for them and they need not fear anymore. On Wednesday, Mamata Banerjee tried to counter Modi’s attack, by raising the salaries of ASHA workers, Anganwadi nurses and ICDS helpers. In a recorded video statement, Mamata alleged that BJP leaders are trying to disturb peace in Bengal and defame the state. Mamata will hold a Jana-Garjana Rally in Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Ground on March 10. Mamata may blame BJP for “conspiring” to raise the Sandeshkhali issue, but the entire nation has seen how Shahjahan’s goons in Sandeshkhali attacked the ED team which it came to conduct searches. Had Mamata got Shahjahan arrested, the issue of atrocities against women and land grab would not have come to the fore. The first mistake that Mamata committed was to hide Shahjahan from arrest. When central forces were deployed and BJP leaders started visiting Sandeshkhali, the local women and villagers gained courage and raised their voices. The women victims narrated their woes in front of cameras, but Mamata mocked their allegations and said in the assembly that all these tears were mere acting and the allegations were baseless. She described the allegations of women victims as “scripted by BJP”. This was Mamata’s second big mistake. The women of Sandeshkhali filed their affidavits before the court, and under judicial order, police had to file FIR. It was only after the Hight Court order, that West Bengal police was forced to arrest Shahjahan Sheikh. To shield the criminal from CBI, Mamata handed over the probe to her state CID. Shahjahan was sent to CID custody. That was Mamata’s third big mistake. When the High Court took a stern stand and ordered that the case relating to attack on ED be transferred to CBI and that Shahjahan be handed over to CBI, her government tried to defy the order. This was Mamata’s fourth big mistake. When her government approached the Supreme Court to appeal against the High Court order, it was her fifth mistake. Since Mamata Banerjee tried hard to shield Shahjahan, anger is already growing among women in Bengal. Had Mamata arrested Shahjahan on the first day itself and sent him to jail, the issue would not have blown to such a big proportion. Mamata committed several blunders continuously. Now that an atmosphere against her party is building up, BJP is trying to take advantage. There is nothing wrong in it. Since the elections are not far away, it is a big opportunity and a norm for any political rival.

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