BJP's Suvendu Adhikari, Stopped From Visiting Sandeshkhali, Gets Court Nod

The Calcutta High Court yesterday allowed Suvendu Adhikari to visit Sandeshkhali and a division bench upheld the order today.


West Bengal is set to witness yet another political showdown on the Sandeshkhali issue after BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari and CPM's Brinda Karat were stopped from visiting the island this morning. The Sandeshkhali island in North 24 Parganas district has made headlines following BJP's allegations of sexual violence by Trinamool leaders and multiple accounts of women alleging harassment and extortion.

Mr Adhikari, who is Leader of Opposition in Bengal Assembly, was stopped at Dhamakhali before he and his supporters could board a ferry to take them to the island. This is his third attempt to visit Sandeshkhali after the allegations against Trinamool leaders raised a political storm.

Incidentally, the Calcutta High Court yesterday allowed Mr Adhikari and BJP MLA Shankar Ghosh to visit Sandeshkhali. It asked the BJP leaders to file an undertaking that they won't engage in any activity that may lead to deterioration of the law and order situation. But this morning, police and riot control force personnel were seen putting up barricades to stop the BJP leader and his supporters at Dhamakhali. Additionally, the local administration clamped prohibitory orders in Sandeshkhali and surrounding areas, barring public gatherings.

"I have a court order. Even then, you are stopping me. This is unfortunate. I will wait for an hour. Then I will return to Kolkata and draw the high court's attention to this. The Mamata Banerjee government and its police are not abiding by the Calcutta High Court's order," he said.

Later, a division bench of the high court this morning directed that Mr Adhikari and Mr Ghosh be allowed to visit the island. "We will direct that two of the writers petitioners shall be allowed to move around, with no other supporters following them, only security, and abide by the conditions imposed," Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam said.

Ms Karat was also stopped at Dhamakhali before she could proceed to the island. BJP and CPM supporters are now holding separate demonstrations in Dhamakhali.

"We came here to meet the women because they called us. They alleged that they were assaulted by Trinamool goons. When we reached here, the police said that peace would be disrupted. This is unacceptable," Ms Karat told news agency ANI. Later, the CPM leader was also allowed to go ahead. 

The island is at the centre of a massive political row after the BJP alleged that aides of local Trinamool strongman Sheikh Shahjahan sexually harassed women. NDTV ground reports revealed allegations of land grab and extortion, as local residents accused Shahjahan's aides of forcibly taking money they received under central and state government's welfare schemes.

Mr Shahjahan has been on the run for a month now after an Enforcement Directorate team conducting raids against him in a corruption case was attacked by a mob. Two of his aides, Uttam Sardar and Shibu Hazra, have been arrested.

State police have said a total of 17 arrests have been made and camps have been set up in Sandeshkhali to record the complaints of local residents.

The ruling Trinamool Congress has accused the BJP of fomenting trouble on the island, with party chief Mamata Banerjee saying that Sandeshkhali has an "RSS base" - suggesting the outfit's role in the unrest.