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regular-article-logo Thursday, 25 April 2024

CPM youth leader Minakshi Mukherjee gives police a slip, meets Sandeshkhali villagers, later escorted out

While Minakshi was forced to leave the village, the state police escorted two state ministers Partha Bhowmik and Sujit Bose who came to face the ire of Sandeshkhali women

Arnab Ganguly Calcutta Published 24.02.24, 07:07 PM
CPM youth leader Minakshi Mukherjee with residents of Sandeshkhali on Saturday before she was forced to leave.

CPM youth leader Minakshi Mukherjee with residents of Sandeshkhali on Saturday before she was forced to leave. Pictures: Sourced by the correspondent

The CPM youth leader Minakshi Mukherjee slipped through the police cordons in Sandeshkhali on Saturday morning, before she was finally stopped from meeting the villagers, who have been protesting against the local Trinamul satrap and North 24-Parganas zilla parishad functionary Sheikh Shahjahan.

While Minakshi was forced to leave Sandeshkhali, the state police escorted two state ministers Partha Bhowmik and Sujit Bose, emissaries of chief minister Mamata Banerjee to placate the irate villagers protesting for over two weeks against the alleged land grab and atrocities committed by Shahjahan and his henchmen.

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The Trinamul overdrive to connect with the people comes days before prime minister Narendra Modi comes hopping to Bengal ahead of the ensuing Lok Sabha polls.

Minakshi was stopped after she went around some of the villages in Sandeshkhali, clad in a saree with a white scarf wrapped around her face.

Minakshi Mukherjee with residents of Sandeshkhali on Saturday before she was forced to leave.

Minakshi Mukherjee with residents of Sandeshkhali on Saturday before she was forced to leave.

“The tubewells do not work here. They are not here to find out how our lives can be improved. We are all Trinamul supporters. There is very little that we can do,” a villager in Sandeshkhali was heard telling Minakshi.

Later in the day as she stepped out from one of the houses, a huge police team led by a female officer stood in her way. What followed next was a barrage of questions from the CPM’s young brigade led by Minakshi and Dhrubajyoti Saha, the DYFI state president.

Minakshi Mukherjee with residents of Sandeshkhali on Saturday

Minakshi Mukherjee with residents of Sandeshkhali on Saturday

For over 15 minutes, Minakshi and others kept asking the police officer why they were being stopped. No answers were offered.

“Madam, under section 144 one person is allowed… we will do as you say… we will move in pairs… tell us what we have to do. What is it that you cannot allow? We can’t tour the villages? We can go in your vehicle then. What is our offence? Is this area under section 144?” the CPM leader asked.

“Why are you stopping us? We will go exactly as is done when section 144 is imposed? Are you trying to scare the family that we met? Are you trying to scare us,” she asked.

Minakshi later told the mediapersons, “This officer stopped us when we stepped out of this house. We want to know if a person is allowed to sit under a tree alone when section 144 is imposed? We want to know who has given her orders to stop us.”

Minakshi threatened legal action against the officer.

“The police are threatening the villagers who have complained against Shahjahan. They are stopping those who are trying to help the villagers who suffered under the Trinamul rule in the last 13 years,” she said.

After 14 minutes of jostling and prodding, when Minakshi tried to push through the cordon she was forced to board a mechanised rickshaw, locally known as toto and taken to the Sandeshkhali ferry ghat. The CPM leaders squatted on the road till 2.51 pm, before deciding to meet SP Basirhat to complain against the police action on them.

“We were not allowed to go to the police station. We have tried to reach the SP Basirhat on the phone but he is not taking calls,” Minakshi said. “If the entire area is under section 144 why are the Trinamul ministers being allowed? The police here are assisting in the government-sponsored terror.”

Minister Bhowmik claimed the party and the government were unaware of what was going on in Sandeshkhali. The reign of alleged terror unleashed by Shahjahan would have remained under the wraps had his name not been dragged into the ration distribution scam in which the former minister and North 24-Parganas Trinamul leader Jyotipriya Mullick has been arrested.

Minakshi Mukherjee with residents of Sandeshkhali.

Minakshi Mukherjee with residents of Sandeshkhali.

"The ministers are here because the elections are approaching. They could have arrested Shahjahan and then visited us. This is an attempt to cover up for now. Once peace returns they will return to terrorise us again. This is what has been going on here," said Sandip Das, a Sandeshkhali resident.

Shahjahan has been on the run since January 5 when a team from the Enforcement Directorate went to his house in Sandeshkhali and came under attack from his followers.

CPM youth leader Minakshi Mukherjee interacting with Sandeshkhali residents.

CPM youth leader Minakshi Mukherjee interacting with Sandeshkhali residents.

Weeks after his disappearance allegations of land grab, assault on women and other charges have surfaced against Shahjahan, his brother Sirajuddin and associates Shibu Hazra and Uttam Sardar.

“Didi has sent us here to listen to the problems of the people here. We had not received any complaints earlier,” said Bhowmik. “The people of Sandeshkhali are with Mamata Banerjee. We will go to each and every person in all the villages and listen to them.”

Minakshi Mukherjee interacting with Sandeshkhali residents.

Minakshi Mukherjee interacting with Sandeshkhali residents.

The state police have set up a camp for the villagers to lodge their complaints. The Sandeshkhali residents have reiterated that the local police refused to listen to their pleas against Shahjahan and his cronies till they were forced to hit the streets.

“Around 258 applications for repossession of farmland have been submitted. about 100 have already been processed,” Bhowmik claimed. “Any villager whose land was forcibly taken will get it back.”

At Haldarpara, Sandeshkhali the family members of a Trinamul worker Binay Sardar came under attack.

In Barmajur’s Majherpara women came out on the streets with brooms and sticks demanding the arrest of Shahjahan and Siraj, who has been absconding since Thursday.

Saturday’s overreach drive did not go as planned for the Trinamul. The women in the villages poured out their anger in front of the two ministers, demanding the arrest of Shahjahan.

“The Enforcement Directorate has informed the Calcutta high court that the state police should not take this case. Our leader Abhishek Banerjee has appealed to the high court that the state police be allowed to investigate,” Bhowmik told the women. “If the court orders, the state police can arrest him in 10 days.”

The women would not listen to the ministers.

“There are so many complaints by the people,” one of the women told the ministers.

“Nobody can go above the court,” Bhowmik tried to reason.

The women then asked why the ministers were talking about ED and why the chief minister could not make a statement against Shahjahan.

Minakshi Mukherjee at the SP Basirhat office. She gave the cops four days to answer why she was stopped from moving around Sandeshkhali within four days. "The barricades will not remain, if I don't get the answers," Minakshi said.

Minakshi Mukherjee at the SP Basirhat office. She gave the cops four days to answer why she was stopped from moving around Sandeshkhali within four days. "The barricades will not remain, if I don't get the answers," Minakshi said.

“Please tell didi about our troubles. We want her to come here and talk to us,” one of the women told the ministers.

“We will definitely listen to what we have to say and convey to the senior leadership,” Bhowmik told the irate Sandeshkhali women. “Please do not misunderstand us.”

The villagers, however, did not appear to be pacified by the assurances given by the ministers.

“We do not accept what he has to say. He (Bhowmik) is a theatre person. He is indulging in theatrics. Are we kids? Don’t we understand anything?” asked another woman.

Bhowmik later said that he could not explain the roles of ED, state police and the court to the women.

The acting DGP Rajeev Kumar, who has been to Sandeshkhali twice within 48-hours earlier this week, had also spoken on similar lines some days back.

“As far as the individual you are referring to (Shahjahan), the case has been registered by ED. Have they arrested him? Investigation on the case we had started, they have obtained a stay.” Kumar had said on February 12.

“Land grab is not a case for the ED to investigate. The ministers were trying to mislead the villagers,” said Sujan Chakraborty, CPM central committee member. “The women are saying they could no longer be kept mum by Rs. 500, Rs. 1000 monthly dole. Sandeshkhali is a sign of the things to come.”

The BJP state spokesperson Shamik Bhattacharya said the police were helpless to act. “CBI officers who went to arrest Rajeev Kumar (in connection with the Saradha probe in September 2019) were arrested by the Calcutta Police. This is an eyewash,” said Bhattacharya. “Both Rajeev Kumar and Bhowmik know they are dispensable. They will be thrown under the bus any day. Shahjahan will remain because Trinamul is Shahjahan and Shahjahan is Trinamul.”

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