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Sandeshkhali: Clashes, protests rock Bengal; TMC assures justice to 'victims'

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Sandeshkhali protest

Kolkata: Protest against allegations of sexual harassment of women in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali for the sixth consecutive day cast its shadow in other regions of the state, with agitating BJP supporters clashing with police personnel in another part of North 24 Parganas district.

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A delegation of the ruling Trinamool Congress 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.

Members of the National Commission for Women also visited the area and spoke to the victims.

Clashes erupted between police personnel and supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as attempts were made to flout the prohibitory orders enforced near the SP's office in Basirhat.

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The orders, enacted under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), were in effect from 6 am to 6 pm to uphold law and order, according to officials.

A significant police presence, outfitted with riot gear, has been stationed outside the SP's office to forestall any potential disturbances. Sandeshkhali falls within the jurisdiction of the Basirhat police district.

The state BJP, which had declared its intention to besiege the SP office on Tuesday to protest the situation in Sandeshkhali, led by state president Sukanta Majumdar, attempted to breach police barricades.

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Initial attempts by police to pacify the BJP supporters were met with defiance, resulting in clashes and stone-pelting, prompting the force to baton charge to disperse the crowd.

Several BJP activists were arrested and detained by the police.

"This is a lawless situation in Bengal. The state government is trying to hide the truth. There is no place for democratic protest," Majumdar claimed.

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He commenced an indefinite sit-in to demand the release of those detained by the police during the altercation.

Earlier in the day, Majumdar revealed that the party delegation would travel to Basirhat by train due to road blockades set up by the police in the area.

In response, the ruling TMC accused the BJP of attempting to disrupt the state's tranquillity.

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TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh asserted that Sandeshkhali was now peaceful, with the situation under control, and 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 asserted that it is now crucial to avoid politicising the situation.

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“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 politicizing the situation; my role is to quell the flames, not stoke them," she said.

Meanwhile, the CPI (M)-led Left Front staged statewide law violation programmes outside district headquarters demanding the withdrawal of charges against party leader Nirapada Sardar, arrested in connection with alleged violence during protests in Sandeshkhali.

Clashes ensued between CPI (M) activists and police during such a programme at Baharampur in Murshidabad district.

After the police failed to pacify the mob, clashes broke out between Left supporters and the personnel of the force.

The police baton charged and fired tear gas shells to disperse the crowd.

CPI(M) state secretary Mohammed Salim alleged that the police fired tear gas shells during a peaceful agitation to disrupt the programme.

The protesters in Sandeshkhal has alleged land encroachment and sexual harassment by Sheikh's group. The TMC leader has been at large since last month's attack on an Enforcement Directorate team at his residence.

In response to escalating public discontent, a TMC delegation, led by Irrigation Minister Partha Bhowmick, visited Sandeshkhali to address grievances and ensure justice for the affected residents.

“The way we have suspended Uttam Hazra, we won't think twice before taking action against others if the complaints are proven to be true. We have asked the local leadership to make a list of those deprived who were not given money.

"It is the party's responsibility to ensure that all those who have been deprived of their land taken away get back their due," he told reporters at Sandeshkhali.

A Congress delegation, however, was barred by police from visiting the area, citing ongoing prohibitory orders.

Chairperson of the National Commission for Women Rekha Sharma said "A two-member delegation visited Sandeshkhali and spoke to some of the victims.

"There is a sense of fear prevailing among the victims. We will again visit the area," she told PTI.

Senior BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari and several party MLAs were prevented from visiting Sandeshkhali on Monday.

State Governor CV Ananda Bose visited Sandeshkhali and spoke to the agitating women on Monday.

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