The supporters shouted slogans condemning the incident and demanded an unconditional apology from Mr Adhikari.
Local women expressed their grievances in front of Governor CV Ananda Bose today, blaming political figures like Shahjahan Sheikh, Shibaprasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar for alleged misconduct and demanding strict punishment for their actions.
Governor C V Ananda Bose’s convoy was also stopped midway by Trinamul Congress supporters, en-route to tension-hit Sandeskhali on Monday. The supporters protested against the central government not releasing funds for the state, which has been the focus of a long-standing impasse between the Trinamul Congress-led Bengal government and the BJP-headed Centre.
Mr Bose cut short his Kerala trip on Sunday for his visit to Sandeskhali. Bengal BJP MLAs were also slated to visit the village today, where Section 144 banning large gatherings was imposed. Tension escalated in the region after local women recently held protests demanding the arrest of on-the-run Trinamul Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan and his aides.
The Left parties have called for a strike in Sandeshkhali today. One village woman in Sandeshkhali said to the Governor, “While you are here, we can speak up, but once you leave, the situation returns to what it was. They will continue to oppress us. Do something so that they are arrested. We demand severe punishment; we want justice.” Even the Governor, who visited Sandeshkhali, acknowledged the concerns of local women. He assured that stringent actions would be taken against those found guilty. The area has been a hotspot of tension since the incident on 5 January, involving an attack on ED officials at the residence of Trinamul leader Sheikh Shahjahan.
In a recent turn of events, Sandeshkhali witnesses heightened tension as Leader of Opposition in Bengal Assembly Suvendu Adhikari’s visit towards Sandeshkhali along with BJP MLAs on Monday also was prevented by police near Science City around 60 kilometres away.
Meanwhile, both the Governor and National Commission for Scheduled Castes have sought reports from the West Bengal government on the on-ground situation at Sandeshkhali. Following the incident, Suvendu Adhikari and five other MLAs have been suspended from the Assembly today as he and BJP MLAs wearing T-shirts displaying message: “We are with Sandeshkhali”.
Former BJP leader Bikash Singh and ex-CPM MLA Nirapad Sardar were arrested yesterday. The police claim they have taken action against the actual culprits, but some locals, particularly women, dispute this assertion. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee also commented on the situation, stating, “Go wherever you want. I have sent a report to the State Women’s Commission, and those against whom complaints were made have been arrested by the police.”
Meanwhile, a team of the West Bengal Women’s Commission visited the troubled spots earlier in the day and spoke to several women in the area who had levelled sexual harassment charges against Sheikh Shahjahan and his aides. The CPM has enforced a 12-hour bandh in two blocks of Sandeshkhali as a sign of protest against the arrests. The state administration has extended the internet ban to the adjacent Hingalganj area.