Sandeshkhali row: Republic Bangla reporter arrested, Kolkata Press Club demands immediate release

The controversy began earlier this month after locals alleged sexual assault and land-grabbing by a TMC strongman and his aides.

WrittenBy:NL Team
Date:
Republic TV reporter Santu Pal being dragged by the police.
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Sandeshkhali in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district has been the site of violence, political row, and protests.

The protesting locals, include women, who have alleged sexual assault and land grabbing by local Trinamool Congress strongman Sheikh Shahjahan and his aides over the years. The controversy has now spiralled into allegations of complacency against Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee and the TMC by the BJP. 

The TMC, meanwhile, has accused the BJP and RSS of “planting cases” and manufacturing a narrative to pledge adivasis against minorities. 

After a spate of arrests in the case, including that of local TMC leader Shibu Hazara, West Bengal police arrested Republic Bangla reporter Santu Pan on Monday over allegations of trespassing and outraging the modesty of a woman.  

A video of the arrest showed the reporter holding the Republic TV mic, saying he “was arrested for exposing the truth”, as he was dragged by a police squad holding batons, shoved into a rickshaw, and driven away. 

Republic TV editor in chief Arnab Goswami said the reporter was “physically dragged” without being served any notice and detained for “three to four hours”. 

The channel also tweeted about it amid its blow-by-blow updates on the case on X. It said the West Bengal police had “unlawfully” detained the reporter for “uncovering truth”. 

Goswami, in his editorial opinion segment  “Nation’s Sharpest Opinion”, had earlier stated that the ED raid against Sheikh was in connection with a “mega scandal”, and that it was a “Nandigram type of uprising by the people”, and the scale of the allegations were “like never before”.  

The Editors Guild of India said it was “concerned” at the arrest of the TV journalist who was “whisked away by the police” while he was reporting live on television. “His arrest while on duty is worrisome”.  

The Kolkata Press Club also said the incident had left the press club worried. “We demand his release”. A statement by the press body said the specific allegation against the journalist was “subject to investigations” but it “protests the arrest of a journalist on duty”. 

The channel received the BJP’s support, with IT cell chief Amit Malviya tweeting that the journalist’s arrest was an “assault on media” and that CM Banerjee was targeting media as the TMC has been “unable to quell protests”.

Sandeshkhali had first made headlines on January 5 as officials of the Enforcement Directorate who had come to the village to conduct a raid on Shahjahan were assaulted by a mob of the TMC leader’s purported supporters. Sheikh Shahjahan then went absconding. And nearly a month after the incident, protests against the TMC leader broke out. 

Amid all this, in a statement in the legislative assembly, Banerjee said no wrongdoing would be tolerated and claimed that 17 arrests had been made in the case, as she also blamed the RSS for the unrest. 

But the protests peaked on Friday as agitators demanded the arrest of Shahjahan and his close aide and TMC leader Shibu Prasad Hazra. The protesters also vandalised a house and burned down the poultry farm of Hazra. Subsequently, internet services were banned in the area. 

Earlier, the West Bengal police had accused the media of spreading “wilful misinformation” about the case. The police said on February 14 that it had received “no allegations about rape of women so far”.   

However, five days later, the National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma said she had received 18 complaints from the women of Sandeshkhali, including two of rape, during their visit to the area. 

Sharma demanded Banerjee’s resignation for “failing to stop atrocities on women” and also demanded President’s Rule in the area. 

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