KOLKATA: A never-before-seen mass agitation during the Trinamool Congress’s 13-year tenure against the ruling party’s satraps has forced the state administration to swing into action by clamping restrictions under Section 144 of CrPC and suspending internet services in North 24 Parganas’ Sandeshkhali from late on Friday night.
The agitation is reminiscent of the Nandigram stir staged against the then Left Front government’s land acquisition decision 17 years ago, one of the key factors behind the derailment of its 34-year regime.
Seeking Amit Shah’s intervention to “save tribals”, BJP’s state president Sukanta Majumdar wrote to the Union Home minister on Saturday. The National Commission for the Scheduled Castes also sought a report from the state government within three days.
The protest started on Wednesday with a massive assembly of local women, mostly from Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities who were armed with sticks and brooms, against the ‘atrocities’ of Shahjahan Sheikh, an accused in foodgrain scam case who allegedly masterminded the assault on officers of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) last month, and his henchmen. Joined by male protesters the next day, irate villagers set ablaze the business outlets of local TMC leaders, which they allegedly set up by robbing villagers of their lands.
“Shahjahan and his men, who used to be our tormentors, are absconding for the past one month, since the attack on the ED officers. So, we mustered up courage to narrate our plight,” said Minati Sardar, one of the protestants.
Leader of Opposition and BJP MLA from Nandigram Suvendu Adhikari demanded an immediate visit to Sandeshkhali by governor CV Ananda Bose. Threatening to stage a demonstration in front of Raj Bhavan, Adhikari said, “We want the governor to visit Sandeshkhali and restore peace in the trouble-torn area within 24 hours. Otherwise, we will stage a sit-in demonstration in front of the Raj Bhavan.”
Bose, who is presently in Kerala, instructed the state government to take immediate action to bring normalcy in Sandeshkhali and arrest the culprits, sources in the governor’s house said.
Sandeshkhali, where three ED officers were bashed up and left bleeding when they went there to search Shahjahan’s house on January 5, was on the boil for the past two days as thousands of women took to the streets in protest against the sexual assault and atrocities by local TMC leaders.
Shahjahan is still at large and the villagers alleged he is under the shelter of the police.
The protesting villagers marched towards the poultry firms of Shibaprasad Hazra, another accused TMC leader, and set it ablaze before ransacking his liquor shop.
Anticipating the situation might go out of control, the district administration clamped Section 144 of CrPC and suspended internet services for an indefinite period in four panchayat areas in Sandeshkhali.
Based on the recommendation of a four-member committee, which was constituted to probe into the local leaders’ alleged atrocities, TMC’s national general secretary expelled Uttam Sardar, a zilla parishad member who has been described as one of the tormentors by the villagers.
TMC leaders admitted the Sandeshkhali stir is unprecedented since the change of guard in the state in 2011. “We never faced a mass agitation in a stronghold of our party since the TMC came to power 13 years ago. The stir in Nandigram was against the state government’s decision. But in Sandeshkhali, the ire among the villagers is completely against the atrocities by our local leaders which may deliver a wrong message across the state,” said a senior TMC leader.