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Sandeshkhali Violence: Supreme Court Rejects CBI Probe

On Monday, the Supreme Court of India rejected a plea for a CBI or STI investigation into the case of sexual violence in West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali village. Lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) with the apex court requesting a court-monitored investigation into the recent violence at Sandeshkhali. 

The PIL also sought compensation for the victims and requested that action be taken against the West Bengal police for their alleged negligence in the case.   

A bench consisting of Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih directed the petitioner to approach the Calcutta High Court as they had already seized the matter and taken cognizance. 

According to Bar and Bench, Justice Nagaranthna said, “Let this not be a dual forum hearing. Let us see what relief the high court grants”. The bench also stated that the Sandeshkhali violence case should not be compared to the Manipur ethnic violence case because the PIL requested a three-judge committee inquiry similar to the one in Manipur.

The Sandeshkhali issue has recently stirred up a storm in West Bengal ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. There have been a lot of protests since the first week of February in the region following allegations of sexual abuse against local TMC Shajahan Sheikh and his supporters. 

Sheikh and his supporters have been accused of forced labour, land grabbing, and sexual assault by the locals of the village, especially the women. 

A few days ago, BJP leader and Union Minister Smriti Irani had claimed that ‘Hindu women’ were being raped, a statement that the state’s police have since refuted. They assert that there is no communal angle in the violence, and women in the area have yet to file a rape complaint with them.

However, they have already arrested 18 people, including local TMC leaders Shibaprasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar, on charges connected to incidents of violence in the area. Additionally, charges of ‘gangrape’ and ‘attempted murder’ have been added against the three prime accused, one of whom is still absconding. 

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has accused the BJP of trying to incite a ‘riot’ in Sandeshkhali with their remarks and accusations. She claimed that by sending different agencies like the ED (Enforcement Directorate) and CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), the BJP is not just trying to pressure her but also causing more unrest in the area.

“In Bengal, if people are tortured, we take action. I am sending officers who will listen to the people and if it is found that someone has taken things from them, they will get back everything. It’s my promise,” said Banerjee speaking at an event in Birbhum a couple of days ago. 

The people of Sandeshkhali, however, hold no ill will towards the TMC supremo. Many have said that they believe the Chief Minister has done a lot for them, such as providing them with free ration and financial assistance under the Lakshmir Bhandar scheme. However, it's the grassroots-level leaders who have tortured them, and they want justice against those who have wronged them.

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