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On way to Sandeshkhali, ‘independent’ fact-finding panel members arrested | Kolkata News


Even as TMC ministers visited unrest-hit Sandeshkali on Sunday to meet local residents, West Bengal police arrested six members of an ‘independent’ fact-finding committee in Bhojerhat while they were on their way to visit the riverine region, citing prohibitory orders. Led by former Chief Justice of Patna High Court Justice L Narasimha Reddy, the committee wanted to probe allegations of human right violations in Sandeshkhali, which has been at the epicentre of protests over complaints of land grab and sexual harassment of women by local TMC leaders.

Citing Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which is in force in parts of Sandeshkhali, police first stopped their convoy in Bhojerhat area on Basanti Highway, which is around 52 km from Sandeshkhali. After the committee members decided to proceed to the trouble-hit area by defying the orders, the police arrested them.

Saikat Ghosh, Deputy Commissioner, Bhangar Division, Kolkata Police, said, “We requested them not to proceed but they were trying to break the police barricade unlawfully. So, we had to arrest them under preventive sections. If there is information of a ‘breach of peace’, the police can arrest them under preventive sections.” They were brought to Lalabazar, the headquarters of Kolkata Police, but were later released.

Calling the police action “completely illegal”, Reddy said, “We had told the police personnel as law-abiding citizens that we will not break the rules. No curfew has been imposed in Sandeshkhali. So, we can go in two groups. At least two of our women members should have been allowed to visit the females who had bore the brunt of atrocities of musclemen enjoying political patronage and impunity from police action.” Before being arrested, another member of the committee, Charu Wali Khanna told reporters: “The police should answer why they are trying to detain us… The way atrocities against women have been done, I wonder what the police would have done with them. The police are not citing any reason to stop us, they are just doing what they have been asked to do…”

Earlier during the day, a TMC delegation., including West Bengal ministers Partha Bhowmick and Sujit Bose, visited Sandeshkhali for the second consecutive day to hear the grievances of villagers. The ministers visited Bermajur area, which witnessed violent protests recently.

Festive offer

Talking to reporters, Bhowmick said, “Give us one-and-half months. We have promised (local residents) that all the land grab allegations, which had been reported, will be verified. We cannot solve all the problems in one go. To address the issues, there are official procedures that need time to be completed.”

Meanwhile, around 100 women in the area protested against the visit of TMC ministers by holding ‘Sujit Bose Go Back’ posters. Sandeshkhali has been on the edge since February first week following protests by residents demanding the arrest of TMC strongman Shahjahan Sheikh and his two aides Shibaprasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar.





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