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regular-article-logo Friday, 19 April 2024

Fact-finding team headed for Sandeshkhali stopped by police, TMC says panel 'BJP-backed'

A BJP insider said the visit of the fact-finding team was part of the exercise of the saffron camp which has decided to keep the Sandeshkhali issue alive to corner the Mamata Banerjee government in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls

Saibal Gupta Calcutta Published 26.02.24, 09:34 AM
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An "independent" fact-finding team led by former Chief Justice of Patna High Court L. Narasimha Reddy, headed for Sandeshkhali on Sunday, was stopped 52km away from the troubled zone in Bhojerhat, with police citing Section 144 of the CrPC.

Trinamul accused the BJP of backing the "so-called independent committee".

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High drama followed after the six members of the team, including former IPS officer Raj Pal Singh, former National Commission for Women member Charu Wali Khanna, advocates O.P. Vyas and Bhavna Bajaj, and senior journalist Sanjeev Nayak sat on the wayside and refused to go back. They were then arrested and taken to Lalbazar. They were released after some time.

"They stopped us nearly 70km away from the place of the incident and told us that we could not go because of the imposition of 144 CrPC. This is illegal. If there is (Section) 144, how are the Trinamul Congress leaders with their supporters going (to Sandeshkhali)? Still, we requested them... we requested them to allow at least two of our women members. They refused,” Reddy said in a press conference later in the day.

A BJP insider said the visit of the fact-finding team was part of the exercise of the saffron camp which has decided to keep the Sandeshkhali issue alive to corner the Mamata Banerjee government in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.

Since the turmoil in Sandeshkhali started on February 7, BJP leaders and several central panels such as the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women prioritised the trouble-hit block in North 24-Parganas.

Although the police allowed the commissions to visit Sandeshkhali, it prevented the BJP leaders several times. However, the leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari visited the island following a Calcutta High Court order on February 20.

A source said Adhikari has again moved court for permission to visit Sandeshkhali.

"All members of this group have a strong professional background. How can they (the police) stop members of civil society? What are they trying to hide?” asked former IPS officer Raj Pal Singh.

"Mamata Banerjee thinks Bengal is her kingdom and she has the right to do anything she likes. People will a reply,” BJP Rajya Sabha member Samik Bhattacharya said.

The team later met governor C.V. Ananda Bose.

"#Sandeshkhali has got Mamata Banerjee in a twist. On the one hand, Sheikh Shahjahan continues to roam free, on the other, WB Police is being pressed to arrest anyone, who is speaking for the women of Sandeshkhali," wrote BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya on X. "Latest being the illegal arrest of Justice (Retd) L Narsimha Reddy, Former Chief Justice of Patna High Court, who was leading a fact finding team of eminent citizens to Sandeshkhali. WB Police is using section 144 selectively. It curiously doesn’t apply to TMC leaders but everyone else, including the media. Such high handedness will have severe legal and political consequences for Mamata Banerjee."

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