‘Was Trained by BJP to Lie’: Amidst Questions Over ‘Sting’ Video, Sandeshkhali Returns to the News

A video shared widely by the TMC purports to show footage taken by a hidden camera in which a Bharatiya Janata Party leader claims that the serious allegations of sexual crimes that had come forth from Sandeshkhali in the last few months were all false.
Gangadhar Koyal of the BJP (left) and the woman who is also shown in the Sandeskhali video.

Kolkata: Not for the first time during the Lok Sabha elections has Sandeshkhali reached headlines again.

This time, it is a nearly 33-minute video that is being called a ‘sting operation’ by various quarters. The Wire has not been able to independently evaluate the veracity of the contents of the video.

It purports to show footage taken by a hidden camera in which a Bharatiya Janata Party leader claims that the serious allegations of sexual crimes that have come forth from Sandeshkhali in the last few months were all false. He also appears to say that the women had levelled rape allegations in exchange for money. He also appears to claim that this was engineered by BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari.

State politics has been on the boil since.

Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty

This comes days after the recovery of arms and ammunition from Trinamool Congress Sandeshkhali leader Abu Taleb Molla. Among recovered arms were three US-made guns which are not sold in the open market. The arms were purportedly buried under Molla’s house and a NSG robot had to be deployed to trace them. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had called this incident a conspiracy by central agencies.

No sooner had the video emerged this morning (May 5) than Trinamool Congress leaders entered the arena with the issue.

Bengal’s ruling party has claimed that the video has summarily proved that Sandeshkhali was a BJP conspiracy and that the women’s complaints had no basis. TMC supremo Banerjee has long since maintained that the BJP has been using Sandeshkhali to its advantage to defeat her party. Today she posted multiple times on X. Her latest post says:

“I had for long stated that the BJP has been trying to malign the image of Bengal by orchestrating the Sandeshkhali incident.

“The sting operation revealed the real face of the Bangla-Birodhis as they tried to manipulate the emotions of my mothers and sisters.

The party’s official handle has posted the video as well.

Banerjee also wrote:

“Never before in the history of India has a ruling party in Delhi tried to malign an entire state and its people.

“History will witness how Bengal will rise in rage against Delhi’s conspiratorial regime and ensure their Bishorjon [end].

TMC’s national general secretary and Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee has asked those BJP leaders who have “maligned” Bengal by keeping the Sandeshkhali issue alive to apologise within 48 hours.

The BJP has claimed that the video is false and doctored and have called for an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The man whose voice is purportedly heard in the video, Gangadhar Koyal, has also knocked CBI’s doors. Suvendu Adhikari, meanwhile, has claimed that the TMC – particularly Abhishek Banerjee – is behind the video. “We will go far with the issue. We’ll send the coal nephew to jail,” he said.

Abhishek is Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, and has received summons from central agencies in connection with a purported coal scam.

Suvendu also posted a similar sentiment on X:

“The truth can be twisted and a misleading version can be circulated. However it’s shelf life is very very short.
Ultimately, Truth prevails.

“Next time, keep it in mind, Koyla Bhaipo.”

In a press conference on May 4, Abhishek spoke at length on the video.

‘Money, trumped up charges’

The ‘sting video’ presents Gangadhar Koyal as the BJP’s mandal chairman at the Sandeshkhali 2 block. Local BJP leaders disagree that Koyal holds any such post. State leaders have said nothing on the matter either.

The video shows Koyal sitting on a plastic chair in a room. In what appears to be an informal setting, a person or persons appear to be asking him questions on Sandeshkhali, which he answers. Suvendu Adhikari’s name is repeated multiple times.

Koyal is purportedly heard saying, “This protest has been sustained for so long…why? Three boys have gone and are directing things. Suvendu da has faith in us. Suvendu da has come by once, that is why the protest persists.” Koyal also appears to say that Suvendu Adhukari has dropped by with phones and money. “Can’t do work like this empty-handed,” he is heard apparently saying.

The questioner seems to ask Koyal if he is aware of what is being done. “There was no rape but you are claiming there was? Would you have been able to get your wife to do this? I wouldn’t have,” the questioner appears to say.

To the question as to how they “brainwashed” villagers, Koyal appears to say that Suvendu Adhikari’s instructions were that this had to be done to arrest the bigwigs there and give BJP a chance to gain a foothold there.

Koyal appears to name one Shubhankar Giri and “Suvendu’s aide Pijush” as having visited Sandeshkhali. The former was one in charge of “brainwashing,” he apparently claims, but withdrew from the role over a “money-related fiasco,” Koyal purportedly says.

Koyal also appears to stress that none of the women said no to their suggestion that they trump up complaints against TMC leaders.

He additionally appears to say that a woman was given “training” to speak to the SC/ST Commission when it visited. The woman is also purportedly heard saying that she had to sign on a piece of paper without knowing what is written on it. She also seems to say that there are three in the village who have her name but she wasn’t the person who made allegations of sexual harassment, even though the official complaint seems to have her signature now.

The woman has also spoken to reporters and repeated the claim that she is not a survivor of sexual violence. A family member of hers has also said that she was unable to read the English complaint and went with the flow in the thick of the protest movement.

Koyal has claimed in his letter to CBI that the video is fake, his lip movements cannot be read and that the channel ‘Williams’ to which it has been uploaded has just one video and that it was opened on May 3, 2024. Koyal claims that a woman is also visible in the video at the 18-minute mark and that AI has been used to fiddle with footage and manipulate the audio of her voice.

While Adhikari has asked if “389 complaints, the TMC’s claim of returning 239 land parcels, three FIRs over rape” are all false, it is true that his party has made the Sandeshkhali issue a major poll plank this season. BJP leaders have included the allegations of sexual harassment in every campaign speech and given a poll ticket from the Basirhat seat to one of the women, Rekha Patra, who alleged sexual violence by TMC leaders.

Patra, who Koyal appears to allege has received money to level allegations of sexual violence against TMC leaders, has since said that Koyal was intimidated into saying this.

Sandeshkhali occupied headlines first on January 5 this year when Enforcement Directorate officers were attacked while on their way to raid TMC bigwig Sheikh Shahjahan in connection with a ration scam. Women began bringing forth allegations of widespread sexual harassment and land grabbing against the leader and his aides. This ballooned into a bigger movement. Eventually, Shahjahan was arrested and is now in the custody of the ED.

Former councillor and CPI(M) candidate Nirapada Sardar told The Wire that despite TMC’s highhandedness, land grabbing and violence at Sandeshkhali, it does seem plausible that the BJP has a role to play now. “I don’t know if the video is fake or not but Suvendu Adhikari was once a mentor to Shahjahan. Now he wants to portray a community as the attacker and another as the attacked,” he said.

Translated from the Bengali original by Soumashree Sarkar.

Courtesy: The Wire



Related Articles