Sandeshkhali erupts in celebrations

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Sandeshkhali erupts in celebrations

Saturday, 02 March 2024 | Saugar Sengupta | Sandeshkhali

Sandeshkhali erupts in celebrations

Holi came a few weeks in advance at Sandeshkhali with the entire riverine island on Thursday virtually getting inundated in abir (vermilion) hours after the news of Sheikh Shahjahan’s arrest at Minakhan about 20 miles inland.

Unconcerned about the much-talked about “body language” of Shahjahan —  regarded as the unquestioned “don” of Sandeshkhali who doubled up as a powerful Trinamool Congress leader and a vote and fund manager — post his arrest, the people, particularly women engaged in a pre-matured Holi saying however that this was “not the end of the movement but beginning of it.” Shahjahan, the alleged mastermind of attack on a raiding team of Enforcement Directorate officials on January 5 besides the alleged perpetrator of large-scale land grabbing, sexual assault on women and other crimes, was at large for 56 days before being arrested on Thursday.

Anita Mal, a homemaker whose husband was forced to leave the village two years ago after he protested against the illegal activities carried out by his goons said, “This is not the end of the struggle as it is the time to rebuild the area ... We will have to remain extremely vigilant because the hyenas of Shahjahan are on the prowl ... They will leave no stone unturned to come back at us again.”

Recounting her horrors Asima Dhali (name changed) another woman from Jeliakhali said, “It is not possible for a woman to recount the days when her honour was looted ... But I am doing so ... I am happy at his arrest but I want him hanged.”

She trembles in anger even as she relates how she was grabbed by her hair and kept locked inside the party office for two days after she refused to desert her husband a CPI(M) activist.

She and tens of others smear each other in red or saffron-pink one apparently representing the Left and the other the BJP.

When asked about the colour specifications the women retort in unison: “There is no CPI(M), BJP or TMC or Congress... We are all residents of Sandeshkhali,” alluding however to a “small refrain” saying, “our only regret is Didi (Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee) would not stand by our side when we needed her the most.”

“At times I feel why God gave this gold-bar complexion... I hate my body but cannot die ... They bit me, chewed me scratched me and consumed for months ... I was forced to surrender as I had to save my children, my old parents-in-law ... We had no job, no job ... My husband was lost in Sunderbans... They took advantage of our situation ... These people must be hanged,” says another local woman even as a congregation of 200 others simultaneously blow conch shells and others resort to Ululation ... Raising a revolution to spiritual heights.

The spirituality devoid of communal divide as a good number of Muslim women too joined the celebrations.

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