Now that the Sandeshkhali tragedy has taken a political turn, BJP politicians in West Bengal, ruled by the TMC, are fighting with state police to defend the protesting survivors.

As a result of accusations of sexual harassment, the opposition demanded for action against TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan and his associates, including party leader Uttam Sardar, the political standoff between the ruling TMC and the opposition BJP in West Bengal intensified.

Since then, a number of women have spoken out, breaking their silence to describe horrifying instances of systematic gang rape and sexual exploitation at the hands of TMC leaders. The Indian Express reported that these ladies were picked, brought to a TMC party headquarters or school facilities, and released only if TMC authorities were satisfied.’ 

On Wednesday, the protest went on for a seventh day in a row, with many women joining the demonstrations and agitators calling for the arrest of these TMC leaders.

Reading Room claims that the accusations made by the women went unanswered even after they sent through letters to the West Bengal administration. The women didn’t choose to come forward till TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan absconded after an ED probe into the ration fraud.

Speaking with The Indian Express, a few women stated that their silence was due to fear. The women also disclosed that the police frequently coerced complainants to “settle the matter” and were involved in the misconduct.

“You must understand how hard it is to speak up even now,” a woman said to The Indian Express. However, we did. since TMC leaders are in the dark and Sheikh Shahjahan is escaping.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, one of the women described what she called a summons at 10 p.m. on the eve of a meeting. Pulling our saree, touching us whenever and wherever they please? I am not alone in having gone through that so many times.

The twenty something woman said that she belongs to a self-help group (SHG) that is run by the panchayat and that she is a “TMC supporter” like the others. The SHG meetings were used as a cover for calling them at strange hours, and this has “been going on since 2020.”

A second woman, who was also in her 20s, claimed that when TMC leaders used to call them to meetings, sometimes for the party and sometimes for the SHG, “our husbands were not called”.

“There was a brief ‘party meeting’ when we arrived, during which it was stated that we would need to put in effort to win. A group of ladies, myself included, were instructed to remain back while the rest of us prepared. They would touch me improperly and tug my saree. I refrained from protesting since I was aware of the consequences,” the woman was cited by IE.

The same woman claimed that TMC leaders had also taken over her family’s “bigha” of land and turned it into a fishery.

A list of people who did not show up for the meetings, according to another woman, was maintained. “Once, when I couldn’t attend because of my health, my husband was beaten up at the market,” she recalled.

“They would sometimes force me to sit on their motorcycles as they drove us there. “I was unable to say no,” she said.

“Here, we all voted for the TMC,” remarked another woman. I was there when the Governor arrived. Every woman was. We explained what was going on to him.”