Mainstream Weekly

Home > 2024 > Field Reports from Sandeshkhali | Arup Kumar Sen

Mainstream, VOL 62 No 9, March 2, 2024

Field Reports from Sandeshkhali | Arup Kumar Sen

Friday 1 March 2024, by Arup Kumar Sen


Sandeshkhali, a remote island in the Sunderbans, has become the centre of political turmoil in West Bengal in the month of February, 2024. Very recently, two national English dailies, The Telegraph, and The Hindu, have carried field reports on what happened in Sandeshkhali. The report carried in The Telegraph noted in this connection: “Sandeshkhali became the epicentre of a political controversy in the state after an attack on Enforcement Directorate officials during a raid at the home of Trinamul strongman Sheikh Shahjahan in connection with a PDS ‘scam’.” (The Telegraph, February 22, 2024) The reporter of the daily came to know the political rise of Shahjahan from a villager: “Sheikh Shahjahan and his aides like Hazra earlier used to work for the CPM. After Trinamul came to power, they switched sides to remain ruling party leaders, and the degree of torture increased after this.” The field reporter noted that ‘Landgrab’ is the heart of establishing political and muscle power in the region. To put it in his own words: “Such stories of land grab have tumbled out in the open over the last fortnight following protests against some local Trinamul leaders who had allegedly created a reign of terror by forcibly taking away land parcels and committing crimes against women…Samrat Sarkar, a 38-year-old primary school teacher, said that although the trend of capturing land started during the Left regime, it had peaked in the past five-six years with the rise of a few leaders whom the villagers, especially women, now accuse of atrocities.” (ibid.)

The filed reporter of The Hindu substantiated the above-mentioned developments in Sandeshkhali: “At the heart of the conflict that erupted in February are allegations of land grab. Today, political and economic power in Sandeshkhali stems from the control of bheries (shallow fish ponds). Most of the villagers have alleged that their fisheries have been forcibly taken away by Shahjahan, Hazra, and Sardar. Like many local strongmen in the Trinamool, Shahjahan, 42, rose to political prominence from humble beginnings, He was a driver and soon became the leader of a brick kiln union. He went on to control bheries and, consequently, the economy and politics of the region.” (The Hindu, February 24, 2024) The Hindu Report reminded us: “Conflict has often arisen around the power that comes from the control of land and area dominance. Movements against forcible land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram, for instance, brought an end to the 34 year-long stint of the Left Front government. Sandeshkhali was the epicentre of the Tebhaga movement, among of the largest farmers’ movements, in the late 1940s.” (ibid.)

The BJP is trying to capitalize the predicaments and discontents of the villagers in Sandeshkhali. In fact, the BJP made its political presence felt in Sandeshkhali in the last panchayat elections: “The rising discontent with the ruling party became clear in 2019, when the BJP started gaining, taking leads in various gram panchayats like Manipur, Sandeshkhali and Korakati though Trinamul nominee Nusrat Jahan won from Basirhat in the Lok Sabha elections.” (The Telegraph, February 22, 2024)

ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy|
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.