Editorial: Sandeshkhali To Be Kept Simmering

Editorial: Sandeshkhali To Be Kept Simmering

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Monday, February 26, 2024, 10:38 PM IST
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Mamata Banerjee | File

Sandeshkhali may well prove to be a major hurdle for Mamata Banerjee in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha election. The reign of terror unleashed by Trinamool Congress strongman Shahjahan Sheikh and his two aides Shibaprasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar by usurping farmland and allegedly terrorising and harassing women in the Sandeshkhali area is reminiscent of erstwhile CPI-M rule in Bengal that lasted 35 long years. That Sheikh, a former CPI-M member, ran his own personal fiefdom in the area goes contrary to Mamata Banerjee’s stated motto of Maa, Maati, Manush. Using threats and intimidation as well as a pliant local police, he allegedly took over acres of cultivable land to turn them into fisheries. The allegation of sexually exploiting young women in the area came to the fore when they took to the streets to protest the atrocities against them and police inaction towards their complaints. Sheikh, who has been on the run since January 5 when his goons attacked an Enforcement Directorate team that had come to inquire into his involvement in a PDS scam, has exposed the dark underbelly of Bengal politics. Years of CPI-M ‘misrule’ have been replaced by a similar exploitative regime wherein local TMC satraps run their own mini kingdoms terrorising local residents even as Nabanna (the seat of power in Kolkata) turns a blind eye to these shenanigans.

The BJP going all out to highlight the Sandeshkhali issue is not surprising given that Lok Sabha elections are just a few weeks away and Bengal is a key component of the party’s stated aim of 370 plus seats. As part of their tried and tested polarising formula the party sought to give the complaints of sexual exploitation a communal colour though the alleged culprits were Hindus and Muslims. There is no doubt that this issue will be kept simmering till the elections are held. The rush of BJP leaders going to Sandeshkhali is proof of this strategy. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself is due to visit Bengal in the beginning of March where he will definitely raise Sandeshkhali in his public addresses. However, not to be outdone, TMC has planned a counterattack with a massive rally at Brigade Parade Ground on 10 March to take on the Union government over alleged discrimination in disbursing funds. This will be the virtual launch of the Trinamool’s poll campaign. Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee is taking the lead in this respect in a bid to quash reports of a rift between the top two Trinamool leaders. He has dared the BJP to match the Brigade rally and also accused the ED of deliberately staying action against Shahjahan Sheikh. The CM sending ministers to the area and assuring the people that all their grievances will be heard and resolved is another step in the right direction, though belated. The Trinamool leadership has to attempt major damage control by ensuring strict action against all party members who overstep and exploit the people. Sandeshkhali is a lesson for politicians on both sides of the spectrum not to use people’s hardships for their personal gains.

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