Sandeshkhali incident: What is it? How did it start? Story So far….


The unrest in the Sandeshkhali region of West Bengal has ballooned into a major crisis situation in the country.

Few days ago the women of Sandeshkhali have spoken out about years of exploitation. Their allegations of socio-economic and sexual exploitation are heart-wrenching.

However, the Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister have gone the whole hog to junk these allegations.

On video, at times covering their faces due to fear of retribution, the women of Sandeshkhali have demolished every statement by Mamata Banerjee on the horrors of Sandeshkhali.

West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali has been seeing massive unrest since February 8.

What is the Sandeshkhali row?

Sandeshkhali, a village in the North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, has been witnessing protests over allegations of sexual abuse of women by a local TMC leader.

Several local women have accused the local Trinamool Congress strongman Shajahan Sheikh and his supporters of land-grab and sexually assaulting them under coercion.

Shajahan has been absconding after a mob, allegedly affiliated to him, attacked Enforcement Directorate officials who had gone to search his premises in connection with a corruption case.

How did the Sandeshkhali controversy start?

It all started on January 5, when a mob thrashed and chased away Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials who had gone to Sandeshkhali to interrogate Shahjahan Sheikh in an alleged ration distribution scam. Sheikh has been absconding since then.

After that incident, local women came out in large numbers alleging that Shahjahan and his men had usurped their lands to set up prawn farms and had been sexually harassing local women for years. These accusations sparked protests and a blame game between political parties.

Tensions escalated further on February 8 when protesters set fire to three poultry farms owned by one of Sheikh’s men.

Here’s a breakdown of events in the past one week:

On Tuesday, Section 144 of CrPC was imposed in the area by the state authorities. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers clashed with the state police on Tuesday in efforts to defy prohibitory orders around the SP’s office in West Bengal’s Basirhat.

Amid the uproar over the alleged events, the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday passed an order setting aside the promulgation of Section 144 of CrPC at Sandeshkhali, and told the state government that instead of exhausting all their efforts to stop protests by lathi-wielding village women, the police authorities need to fix their priorities better and look for the two alleged prime perpetrators of crimes, the PTI reported.

The Calcutta High Court also took suo motu cognisance over the alleged incidents of sexual assaults of women in Sandeshkhali at gun points and transfer of lands of tribal people in violation of relevant laws. A single-judge bench of Justice Apurba Sinha Ray on Tuesday expressed gross disappointment over the alleged incidents of violence against women in Sandeshkhali and issued notice to the West Bengal government.

The high court also issued notices to the Inspector General of Police, DIG of Police (Barasat Range), Superintendent of Police & District Magistrate of North 24 Parganas. Members of the National Commission for Women also visited the area and spoke to the protesting women.

Earlier on Monday, the State Governor CV Ananda Bose also visited Sandeshkhali and interacted with agitating women.

TMC’s Response:

On Tuesday, a delegation of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) delegation visited Sandeshkhali and pledged to ensure justice to the women who are victims of atrocities by absconding party leader Shajahan Sheikh and his associates, PTI reported.

The TMC has accused the BJP of attempting to disrupt the state’s tranquility.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that arrests have been made in the incident and State Women Commission has submitted a report in the matter.

TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said that peace was restored in Sandeshkhali and the situation was under control. According to PTI, Ghosh criticized the BJP and the CPI (M) for allegedly instigating unrest.

“If there are a few allegations, the police, administration, and the party are taking necessary steps. BJP and CPI (M) are trying to create new provocations, and today they began vandalism, he said.”

TMC’s Basirhat MP Nussrat Jahan said that it is crucial to avoid politicising the situation.

“At this critical juncture, let’s refrain from instigating or provoking others and instead unite to support the administration. The state government is tirelessly aiding locals, and as an elected representative, I maintain regular communication with authorities. It’s crucial to avoid politicising the situation; my role is to quell the flames, not stoke them, she said.” PTI quoted Jahan

What Opposition Is Saying?

On February 13, after clashes, the West Bengal police detained the BJP chief Sukanta Majumdar, along with the other workers of the party, while they were on a sit-in protest outside the SP Office in North 24 Parganas’ Basirhat. They were released later that night.

Majumdar accused TMC workers Sheikh Shahjahan, Shibu Hajra and Uttam Sardar of raping women in Sandeshkhali for months.

“In Sandeshkhali, TMC workers have been raping women for months now – Sheikh Shahjahan, Shibu Hajra and Uttam Sardar are raping them. We had come to the SP peacefully with the demand to arrest them. If they do not arrest them in Sandeshkhali, how will the women in Sandeshkhali gain confidence?”ANI quoted Majumdar

Union Minister Smriti Irani slammed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and accused her “of being known for the genocide of Hindus”.

A fact finding team appointed by BJP national president JP Nadda will visit Sandeskhali February 16. Team consisted of 1 male and five female. 

Three ‘safe rooms’ have been opened in Raj Bhavan in West Bengal for women in view of recent reports of sexual exploitation in Sandeshkhali, according to the Governor’s Office.

An official from the Governor’s Office told news agency PTI, “On the instructions of West Bengal Governor (CV Ananda Bose), three ‘safe rooms’ have been made in Raj Bhavan. Any woman can come and stay, arrangements for their transportation will also be made. Till now, we have not received any requests, but if we receive, proper arrangements will be made.”

The West Bengal village, Sandeshkhali, has been witnessing protests after local women accused Trinamool Congress leader Shajahan Sheikh and his supporters of “sexually assaulting” them.

On Monday, West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose urged political parties and individuals from various backgrounds to unite and arrange a ‘peace visit’ to Sandeshkhali.

“I appeal to the law-abiding citizenry, civil society leaders, opinion makers and all political parties to unite in a ‘peace visit’ to Sandeshkhali, to go round the streets there that have been witnessing distrust, scepticism and lawlessness and stand by the law-abiding citizens, and more specifically, the aggrieved women there and tell them the entire country is with them,” Bose said in a message released from Raj Bhavan.

Earlier, Bose had met the protesting women of the village in North 24 Parganas district.

“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,” Bose told reporters after meeting the victims on February 12