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NCST's Sandeshkhali probe unveils disturbing details; over 50 horrifying complaints against TMC's Shahjahan

A National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) probe into allegations against TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali area has unearthed disturbing details. Complainants accused Shahjahan of coercing tribal families to surrender Mnrega wages, committing sexual harassment, and engaging in land grabbing.

NCST Sandeshkhali probe unveils disturbing details; over 50 horrifying complaints against TMC's Shahjahan
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First Published Feb 24, 2024, 5:34 PM IST

The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) probe into allegations against Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Sheikh Shahjahan and his associates in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali area has revealed shocking findings. According to complainants, Shahjahan and his cohorts would forcefully extract Mnrega wages from impoverished tribal families, subject them to torture, and commit sexual harassment to influence their voting choices.

Led by vice-chairperson Ananta Nayak, a three-member NCST team heard distressing accounts from over 50 complainants regarding sexual assault and land-grabbing incidents involving Shahjahan and his group. The team, which recently concluded its investigations in Delhi, is set to submit a comprehensive report to the government.

Sandeshkhali, located in North 24 Parganas district on the fringes of the Sunderbans, has been embroiled in unrest for over a month due to protests against Shahjahan, who is currently evading authorities.

Nayak disclosed that Shahjahan's modus operandi included coercing tribal individuals to surrender their MGNERGA earnings and land. Victims who resisted were reportedly subjected to various forms of abuse, while those who supported opposing political parties faced severe reprisals. Furthermore, Shahjahan and his associates allegedly manipulated local women into attending nighttime meetings, threatening retaliation against non-compliance.

The NCST probe also exposed a concerning nexus between the accused and law enforcement. Victims claimed that attempts to seek police intervention were met with apathy, with officers purportedly siding with Shahjahan and urging complainants to settle matters privately.

In addition to land confiscation, Shahjahan stands accused of sabotaging agricultural lands by releasing saltwater, affecting the livelihoods of numerous tribal and non-tribal families across a vast expanse.

In response to the gravity of the situation, the NCST issued notices to West Bengal's chief secretary and police chief, demanding prompt submission of factual reports and details of actions taken within a three-day period starting from February 20.

The findings of the NCST inquiry have shed light on the systemic abuse of power and exploitation faced by marginalized communities in Sandeshkhali, warranting urgent attention from authorities to ensure justice and accountability.

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