Rising Incidents of Sexual Violence in West Bengal

Salil Gewali

          In the calm villages of Sandeshkhali, West Bengal, India, a terrifying narrative is emerging. It’s indeed harrowing tales of numerous women enduring consistent sexual exploitation and abuse by a TMC leader, his aides and party members.

        What is shocking is that TMC state government, instead of standing up for the hapless victims, has been shielding the criminals belonging. Many claim that government machinery, including the police, has devised devious plans to spread misinformation or “suppress” the truth. It is very unthinkable that the very institutions meant to protect the citizens have become instruments of their oppression.

            One victim, in a deep sense of agony, recounts her nightmare — “TMC members brought me into the party office, where a group of people were drinking. For the next one and half days, two of them sexually tortured me in the party office itself. I was told that my husband would not ‘take me back’ after this and so I should stay on with the men in the room – that they would give me a government job eventually. They said they would place my husband’s severed head on my palms if I complained about what they had done to me”;  (as reported by THE WIRE).

            Another woman says that any woman found beautiful by TMC leaders and members would be called to the party office on the pretext of a meeting of the Self-Help Group, and leaders would take turns to rape her. This fact has been going on for at least 2 years. There are also several cases of forceful land grabbing by TMC leader Shajahan Sheikh and his aides in the villages of Sandeshkhali.  These are just a few examples, a tip of the iceberg!              Can you imagine how scared and frustrated people in the area must be? Another shocker, some of the victims who were sexually abused were “abandoned” by their husbands and families. Can we genuinely empathize with their plight and anguish now? Practically, as reported by national media, those victims who wish to seek police help are being silenced, and also are intimidated. Moreover, police beat houses do not entertain the FIRs against the TMC members. State administration

does not let the Central Government to take up the cases in favour the victimized. The hope for justice for victimized women is a far cry.  

            In the face of mounting evidence and public fear and outcry, the National Commission for Women from New Delhi laments, “Our inquiry committee found that the victims in West Bengal is being threatened by local police, deterring them from coming out and reporting instances of sexual and physical harassment. Victims also recounted instances of physical and sexual violence perpetrated by both police officers and members of the TMC.”

          Following the distressing development in Sandeshkhali, a Supreme Court lawyer Alakh Alok Shrivastava took a decisive step on February 15th. He filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court against the mafia rule of TMC government requesting a thorough investigation into the horrific incidents that have shaken the region. Given the recent deliberate attack by TMC supporters on the officials of the Enforcement Directorate, and the main accused being TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh, Shrivastava has insisted on fair investigation, either by the Special Investigation Team or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

          One disillusioned police officer who is a relative of this writer’s close friend from Kolkata informed under the condition of anonymity over the phone that police power in most of the districts in West Bengal has been curtailed and they are unable to take action against certain nefarious elements if they are associated with TMC. These same facts have recently been reiterated by the Governor of West Bengal. Upon hearing the stories of the victimized women and their relatives in Sandeshkhali, the governor C. V. Ananda Bose became deeply emotional and burst in anger, “What I saw was ghastly, shocking, shattering to my senses. I saw something which I should never have seen; I heard many things that I should never have heard. I cannot believe this could happen in Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore’s land.”    

            According to sources from Governor House, West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose has recently submitted the comprehensive report to the Central Ministry of Home Affairs, pointing fingers at law enforcement authorities of West Bengal for colluding with “depraved elements” in Sandeshkhali. This comes amidst ongoing protests by aggrieved women against purported abuses committed by Shajahan Sheikh, a prominent leader of the ruling TMC, and his supporters.

            One wonders how sensible people make of the increasing heinous criminality in West Bengal. It is totally unpardonable and barbaric that the leaders who solicit votes with lofty promises later exploit vulnerable women for their carnal pleasure while the Chief Minister of the state, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, seeks ways to defend the criminals. She consistently lashes out if the Central Government attempts to “intervene in matters” concerning the preferential treatment to infiltrated Bangladeshis/Rohingyas and the blatant discrimination against indigenous Hindu Bengalis. Moreover, some of the MLAs and MPs affiliated with her party have allegedly been found to have links with terrorist groups operating beyond the borders of the country. Over the years, many TMC MLAs have been arrested on charges of high-level corruption and are currently in jail.

           What an astonishing paradox it is to witness the top columnists of our nation retreating into hibernation. In other words, they have been turning a blind eye to the inhumane atrocities inflicted upon Hindu Bengalis by TMC supporters and certain imported citizens. This cabal of journalists exhibits a bizarre penchant to contribute regular columns to prestigious publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, BBC, and The Guardian, seemingly with the deliberate aim of tarnishing our country and its rich spiritual heritage. These pseudo-journalists often stoop so low as to glorify activists or leaders involved in treasonable activities as heroes.

              Incidentally, what do the leaders from Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, Assam, who have recently joined TMC with great expectations, have to say about the increasing brutality, sadism, and barbarism of their party in West Bengal? Is the party supremo’s outright deviation from the commitment of good governance still a pull factor for leaders outside the West Bengal? It certainly calls for a serious soul-searching. How we wish that the states’ political leaders would “choose” the party with integrity that believes in humanity and selfless service, not the one that believe in “jungal raj” and depravity. For every “misstep” by a leader, the states will invariably have to pay the price.  


An India-based writer and researcher, Salil Gewali is best known for his research-based work entitled ‘Great Minds on India’ that has earned worldwide appreciation. Translated into thirteen languages, his book has been prefaced by a NASA chief scientist – Dr. Kamlesh Lulla of Houston, USA. Gewali is also a member of the International Human Rights Commission, Zürich, Switzerland.  

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