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"Old Video": BJP Leader's Defence After 'Sandeshkhali Fake Rape' Claims Viral

Kolkata: Sandeshkhali, a small town in the heart of West Bengal, again finds itself at the epicenter of a political storm as allegations and counter-allegations fly between the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), casting a shadow over the ongoing electoral battle in the state.

The latest salvo was fired by the TMC, who accused the BJP of spreading lies about the incidents in Sandeshkhali after several newly-surfaced videos claimed that a local female BJP leader made multiple women sign on blank papers, which were later filled up as complaints of sexual assault against TMC leaders.

The allegation was levelled within three days after the TMC took to social media to unveil a Sandeshkhali "sting operation" video featuring a local BJP leader Gangadhar Koyal who claimed that the rape allegations were "staged" and were lodged at the behest of state leader of the opposition, Suvendu Adhikari.

The women of Sandeshkhali had alleged that they were raped and sexually harassed by TMC strongman Shahjahan and his aides. This prompted massive protests by the Bengal BJP and snowballed into a major national political issue ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Speaking up against the Trinamool, BJP's Basirhat candidate, Rekha Patra, said that old videos of hers were being used to malign the movement.

"I am very sad to see that TMC is using an old video of mine, even before BJP fielded me as a candidate, to malign the Sandeshkhali movement," Ms Patra said. She further accused the West Bengal Police of coercing her into downplaying incidents of sexual assault, despite her explicit mention of the same in her affidavits.

The Basirhat Police has registered FIRs against prominent BJP figures, including Gangadhar Koyal and Rekha Patra, based on a complaint filed by a TMC worker. The complaint alleged a conspiracy to fabricate cases of crimes against women, citing a viral sting video as evidence.

The TMC's allegations gained traction when fresh videos emerged, featuring purported Sandeshkhali residents denouncing the BJP's tactics and claiming manipulation in filing false rape cases. One of the videos shows Rekha Patra questioning the authenticity of the "Sandeshkhali victims" taken to meet President Draupadi Murmu, pointing fingers at her party in the controversy.

The nondescript island in North 24 Parganas made headlines in February when residents accused strongman Sheikh Shahjahan and his aides of harassing them. Shahjahan, now expelled by the Trinamool Congress, was arrested after he was on the run for over a month in a case relating to a mob attack on Enforcement Directorate officials probing him. He is now in the CBI's custody.


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