Smriti Irani Slams Mamata Banerjee on Sandeshkhali


Union Minister Smriti Irani today slammed the Mamata Banerjee government over the allegations of women in south Bengal’s Sandeshkhali, declaring that “young Hindu married women” are being targetted by Trinamool Congress goons. The state has been in the eye of a political storm over the allegations of women, who have accused a local Trinamool leader of systematic sexual exploitation. The man in question, Zilla Parishad member Sheikh Shajahan — also accused of land grabbing — is on the run. He is also wanted by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with an alleged PDS scam.

Sandeshkhali, an island in Sundarbans close to the Bangladesh border, has been placed under Prohibitory Orders banning large gatherings.

“Young Hindu married women are being deliberately targetted,” Ms Irani alleged, reading out what she said were the women’s version of events as told to the local media.

That Mamata Banerjee “will now allow her men to pick out young Hindu married women to be raped night after night in the TMC office cannot be articulated in mere words. Can we as citizens be mute spectators?’ she said.

The Trinamool responded sharply. Senior party leader and Bengal Finance Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya told reporters, “We condemn every rape but what about Bilkis Bano’s case? Why hasn’t she said anything? Does rape have colour? Can you add colour and say this has been done because of division in religion? She actually wants to provoke people there and create unrest. That is what BJP and CPM are doing there. They have been caught red handed and therefore they were arrested yesterday.”

“When she speaks as a woman, and she has herself said there is no politics and everything has to be looked into with a human face. If that is so then why is she not speaking on these issues also? She is politicising everything,” Ms Bhattacharya added.

Over the last days, a large number of women in Sandeshkhali, armed with sticks and brooms, have been holding protests, alleging that Sheikh Shajahan and his “gang” have captured swathes of land by force, and are sexually exploiting them.

In a video unverified by NDTV, that’s being widely circulated online, a woman alleged that they are being dragged off to the Trinamool office, kept overnight and sexually assaulted.

The women have demanded the arrest of Sheikh Shajahan, who has been on the run since a team of the Enforcement Directorate went to raid his house last month in connection with an alleged ration scam. The team was attacked by a mob.

Ms Irani said the agency has given a police statement that three of the officials were injured in the stone throwing that took place in Sandeshkhali.

Earlier today, senior BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari and other MLAs of the party were stopped from visiting the area by the police, who cited the prohibitory orders.

Governor CV Ananda Bose later visited Sandeshkhali after which, he described the situation as “ghastly”. “What I saw was ghastly, shocking, shattering to my senses. I saw something which I should never have seen, I heard many things which I should never have heard. I cannot believe this could happen in Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore’s land,” Mr Bose told reporters after taking stock of the situation.

Welcoming his visit, Mamata Banerjee told reporters today that people responsible for the violence “have been arrested”.

“Anyone can go to Sandeshkhali. We have no issues with that. We have already sent the state women commission team there. They returned and submitted a report. Those who have instigated violence have been arrested. The situation is being monitored closely and necessary steps are being taken,” she told reporters.

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