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Guv rushes to troubled Sandeshkhali; six BJP MLAs suspended from Bengal assembly

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Kolkata, Feb 12 (PTI) Tensions simmered in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali block, as Governor CV Ananda Bose made a hurried visit to the troubled region, pledging justice for the women who claimed to have suffered abuses, even as six BJP lawmakers faced suspension for raising concerns about the situation in the assembly.

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Protests persisted in Sandeshkhali for the fifth consecutive day, with a significant number of women taking to the streets, demanding the arrest of TMC leader Sheikh Shajahan and his alleged "gang." The accusations include forcefully capturing land and sexually harassing women.

Shajahan, wanted since a mob attacked Enforcement Directorate (ED) officers during a raid at his residence in an alleged ration scam, has been absconding since last month.

Governor Ananda Bose, who curtailed his trip to Kerala and rushed to the restive area, expressed dismay at the events unfolding in Sandeshkhali. Visibly shaken by the situation, the governor expressed shock and pledged support to the aggrieved women.

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"What I saw was ghastly, shocking, shattering to my senses. I cannot believe this could happen in Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore's land," Bose told reporters, vowing to address the issue within the constitutional framework and the laws of the land.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, downplayed the significance of the governor's visit, and said, "We have already arrested those against whom there have been allegations," before leaving for a programme in Hooghly district.

The political firestorm reached the assembly, where BJP MLAs demanded a response from Banerjee, leading to a chaotic scene.

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Inside the assembly, BJP lawmakers, adorned in 'We are with Sandeshkhali' T-shirts, sat on the floor of the House, shouting slogans which led to a ruckus.

Despite appeals by Speaker Biman Banerjee, the BJP MLAs remained defiant and continued with their protests.

Following this, the Speaker allowed state Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sovandeb Chatterjee to move a motion for the suspension of the BJP legislators.

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Six BJP MLAs, including Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari, were suspended for the remaining part of the current session or for 30 days, whichever is earlier.

Adhikari remarked, "We feel proud that we have been suspended for standing by the people of Sandeshkhali." TMC chief whip Nirmal Ghosh accused the BJP of wanting to disrupt assembly proceedings.

Post-suspension, Adhikari and 67 BJP MLAs attempted to visit Sandeshkhali but were stopped due to prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC.

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"The authorities stopped us at Basanti Highway citing prohibitory orders there and a letter by Basirhat police superintendent claiming that my visit to Sandeshkhali might lead to law and order problems in the area," Adhikari said.

They were stopped at Basanti expressway, nearly 65 km away from Sandeshkhali.

"This is absurd. We condemn this attempt by the state government to suppress the truth," he said.

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Undeterred, they staged a sit-in on Basanti Express Highway, condemning what they perceived as government suppression of truth.

In response to mounting public anger, the TMC announced that a delegation led by senior leader Partha Bhowmick would visit Sandeshkhali to assess the situation on Tuesday afternoon.

The Sandeshkhali block, known as a fisheries hub, has been embroiled in controversy since the assault on ED officers during the raid on Sheikh's residence last month.

Despite the suspension of local TMC leaders, discontent over atrocities by local leaders persists among the residents. PTI SCH/DC PNT MNB

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