'Mamata benefits from what Shahjahan is doing in Sandeshkhali': Rekha Patra

Modi will come for her campaign, she says


Interview/ Rekha Patra, Sandeshkhali survivor and BJP candidate

Q/ What made you contest the elections, given the prevailing situation?

A/My candidature was purely coincidental. I am not entirely sure how I ended up being a candidate. I am part of a movement that aims to protect the dignity of our mothers and sisters. I simply represent them. It is not just me contesting; all the women here are contesting. The courage to stand up against the forces that terrorise us is collective. With the blessings of Modi ji and Suvendu Adhikari ji, I became a candidate. I knew they were observing our struggle.

Q/ Have you faced any threats since declaring your candidature?

A/Yes, I have faced threats both before and after declaring my candidature. There has been pressure from various sides in different ways. Some have questioned what an ordinary woman like me can do in politics. However, I believe that standing up for the rights and dignity of women is the politics of ordinary people. As I represent all the mothers and sisters in Sandeshkhali, I am able to ignore these pressures. (After she declared her candidature, a police outpost was installed near the road leading to her home.)

Q/ What crimes did Shahjahan commit in Sandeshkhali?

A/Shahjahan targeted not just women. If men refused to work for the Trinamool, they would be attacked and falsely implicated in cases. He and his associates seized vast amounts of land from poor people. Women have endured numerous atrocities at their hands.

Q/ Have you been attacked by them?

A/Yes, there was a murder attempt on me. When their rally was passing near my house, my daughter was playing on the road. When I tried to take her inside, a close associate of Shahjahan tore my sari, pulled my hair and beat up my face. I have filed a complaint regarding this incident.

Q/ Why didn’t you lodge a complaint against Shahjahan and his associates earlier?

A/Many women had complained to the police, but they were unwilling to register any cases. The police mentioned that ‘bhaijaan’ would handle the matter. The situation was such that if we filed complaints, they would attack us, our families and even our children.

Q/ Were there widespread attacks against women?

A/Women were indeed attacked and molested. They would force women to attend Trinamool programmes, sometimes late in the night. If they refused, the goons would brutally beat their husbands and family members. Additionally, they would confiscate their Aadhaar cards or ration cards. We were in a situation where we could not live normally with our families. Only if Shahjahan and his henchmen remain in jail for life, can we live peacefully with our families.

Q/ How did the women’s agitation start?

A/We were all afraid, fearing attacks against us and our family members. We started the protest because we felt there was no option to uphold our dignity. The agitation began when Shahjahan went into hiding. Gradually, more women from other villages joined us. Every year, Ma Durga arrives to destroy the demonic forces. In that spirit, we women stick closely together, fighting for our safety, dignity and peace.

Q/ Why is the woman chief minister of the state not helping you?

A/She is engaging in politics here. She has no respect for us, the mothers and sisters of Sandeshkhali, and our dignity. She benefits from what Shahjahan is doing.

Q/ As a candidate, what kind of response are you receiving from the people?

A/People treat me as “Bangla Meye (Bengal’s daughter, a term used by Mamata in the last elections)”. They wish for my victory to restore the dignity of women, which has been tarnished by the ruling party and its henchmen. I am receiving blessings from everywhere.

Q/ Will Prime Minister Modi come to campaign for you?

A/Modi ji called me and blessed me. He promised me that he would surely come for my campaign.