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Sandeshkhali row: Police stop independent fact-finding team from accessing the area

Updated on: 25 February,2024 02:18 PM IST  |  Kolkata
mid-day online correspondent |

The police used Section 144 of CrPC which was in effect in sections of Sandeshkhali, as justification for denying the committee entry.

Sandeshkhali row: Police stop independent fact-finding team from accessing the area

DYFI West Bengal State Secretary Meenakshi Mukherjee during a visit to Sandeshkhali/ PTI

In a contentious move, police intercepted a team of six members from an independent fact-finding committee led by former Chief Justice of the Patna High Court, L Narasimha Reddy, as they attempted to investigate alleged incidents of atrocities against women in the troubled Sandeshkhali area of West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district.

The police used Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which was in effect in sections of Sandeshkhali, as justification for denying the committee entry to the region. Despite the committee's petition, they were stopped in the Bhojerhat area on the Basanti Highway, some 52 km from the riverine zone, reported PTI. The committee members, including Raj Pal Singh, a former IPS officer, and Charu Wali Khanna, a former National Commission for Women member, declared their intention to travel to Sandeshkhali. However, they were held by police, however briefly, before being released, the report added. 

Former Chief Justice Reddy decried the police action, stating that the delegation intended to follow the law while conducting their fact-finding assignment. He emphasised the necessity of civil society engagement with victims of human rights breaches and accused the administration of trying to hide the truth, the PTI report stated. 

"This is completely illegal. We have told the police personnel as law-abiding citizens we will not break rules. No curfew has been imposed in Sandeshkhali. So we can go in two groups. At least two of our women members should be allowed to visit the females who had bore the brunt of atrocities of musclemen enjoying political patronage and impunity from police action in all these days till the media unravelled the shocking truth", Reddy was quoted as saying. 

Reddy added, "The administration cannot stop civil society members of the country from interacting with victims of human rights violations. What they (administration) are scared to hide."

The committee sought to look into not just the alleged crimes against women, but also the suspected conversion of villagers' land into fish farms by Trinamool Congress members. However, their efforts were halted by the police.

"What they have done is nothing but murder of democracy. They have illegally detained us," said Khanna, another committee member told the media. 

In response to questions about the police's behaviour, West Bengal Minister Sujit Basu claimed ignorance of the matter, while another instance involving the arrest of an ISF leader in Sandeshkhali was reported.

This incident follows a trend of authorities impeding fact-finding expeditions, as a BJP delegation and TMC representatives were both denied admission to Sandeshkhali on different occasions. The TMC delegation had vowed to resolve issues and guarantee accountability for any wrongdoing by local authorities.

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