Kolkata: Union Minister Smriti Irani criticized the Mamata Banerjee government today for its handling of allegations of violence against women in Sandeshkhali, South Bengal. Irani asserted that young Hindu married women are being deliberately targeted by Trinamool Congress members. The accusations center around Sheikh Shajahan, a local Trinamool leader accused of sexual exploitation and land grabbing, who is currently evading authorities. He is also wanted by the Enforcement Directorate for his alleged involvement in a public distribution system scam.
Sandeshkhali, located in the Sundarbans near the Bangladesh border, has been placed under Prohibitory Orders to prevent large gatherings.
Irani stated, “The deliberate targeting of young Hindu married women is unacceptable,” as she cited accounts from local media. She condemned the alleged actions of the Trinamool Congress, accusing them of allowing such atrocities to occur.
In response, Trinamool leader and Bengal Finance Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya condemned all forms of sexual violence but questioned Irani’s selective outrage, highlighting the case of Bilkis Bano and accusing Irani of politicizing the issue to stoke unrest.
Recent days have seen protests by numerous women in Sandeshkhali, alleging land grabs and sexual exploitation by Sheikh Shajahan and his associates. Videos circulating online claim to show women alleging that they are taken to the Trinamool office and assaulted overnight.
The women have demanded Sheikh Shajahan’s arrest, who has been evading authorities since the Enforcement Directorate attempted to raid his house in connection with the alleged ration scam.
Irani also mentioned that three officials of the Enforcement Directorate were injured during a stone-throwing incident in Sandeshkhali, as confirmed by the agency.
Earlier today, senior BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari and other party MLAs were prevented from visiting the area by police citing prohibitory orders.
Governor CV Ananda Bose’s visit to Sandeshkhali was described as “ghastly” as he expressed shock over the situation. Mamata Banerjee welcomed the visit and assured that those responsible for violence have been arrested.
She emphasized that anyone can visit Sandeshkhali and stated that necessary steps are being taken to address the situation, including the deployment of the state women’s commission team.