Rekha Patra: A rural woman’s journey from being face of Sandeshkali movement to BJP nominee

Kolkata: She was a rural woman living a simple life, looking after daily household chores and taking care of family members. But she emerged as the face of the Sandeshkhali movement and helped to raise the voice of women who were allegedly sexually harassed by a section of Trinamool Congress leadership, and today, Rekha Patra is the BJP’s candidate from West Bengal’s Basirhat Lok Sabha seat for the upcoming general elections.

A resident of Patrapara area in Sandeshkhali, till she was named the BJP candidate, Rekha Patra was living a nonchalant life, hailing from a rural hamlet of West Bengal without hardly having any connection with political activities.

She was the first one to file a written complaint against local Trinamool Congress leaders Shibu Hazra and Uttam Sardar, both close aides of now suspended West Bengal’s ruling party leader and the mastermind behind the attack on ED and CAPF personnel on January 5, Sheikh Shahjahan.

Rekha Patra also gave an in-camera statement to a woman magistrate.

That way, she opened the door to compel the police to register FIRs against Hazra and Sardar, and subsequently arrest both of them.

Their arrests also prompted Trinamool Congress to suspend them from the party.

In a way, she had also shown the courage to bell the cat, which encouraged other oppressed women at Sandeshkhali to hit the streets with energy, demanding arrest of Sheikh Shahjahan.

As the women of Sandeshkhali also carried on the protest demonstrations along the lines shown by Rekha Patra, the police ultimately had to arrest Sheikh Shahjahan after the latter remained absconding for 56 days since he “planned” the attack on ED and CAPF personnel at Sandeshkhali on January 5.

In fact, after Patra’s nomination was announced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership, there were celebrations among a large section of Sandeshkhali women who feel that, ultimately, the BJP has given recognition to their movement by nominating the “face of the movement” as the candidate for Lok Sabha elections.

However, a minuscule section in Sandeshkhali has raised questions about her educational qualifications and hence her ability to become a member of the Lok Sabha.

But Rekha Patra remains determined, saying “such negative propaganda” will not spoil her spirit.

“Some people cannot accept that I have reached this position despite being an academically and financially backward woman just by keeping my spirit high in the movement against oppression against local women. I am sure that they will also embrace me some day,” she said.


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