Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday alleged that the Trinamool Congress was threatening the women of West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali village who had accused party functionaries of sexual abuse and land-grabbing.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, however, accused the prime minister of “peddling lies”, reported PTI.

At an election rally in Barrackpore, Modi said: “All of us have seen what the Trinamool Congress has done with the sisters and mothers of Sandeshkhali. First, the Trinamool Congress tried to protect the accused with the help of the police. The party has now started a new game. Their goons are terrorising and threatening the women there because the perpetrator’s name is Sheikh Shahjahan.”

He said the Trinamool Congress was “trying to protect the culprit to appease its vote bank”.

The remarks came four days after one of the women who had accused now-suspended Trinamool Congress leader Shahjahan Sheikh of rape withdrew her complaint.

On Wednesday, the woman stated that the complaint was false and alleged that a worker from the Bharatiya Janata Party’s women’s wing and other party workers had visited her home and forced her to sign a blank paper.

“They asked for my signature on the pretext of enlisting my name for PMAY [Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana scheme],” the woman said. “Later, they took me to the police station to lodge a complaint of sexual abuse.”

On Saturday, videos surfaced from Sandeshkhali in which a local BJP leader was heard saying that 70 women got Rs 2,000 each for protesting against Sheikh and his supporters, PTI reported. The BJP has, however, claimed that the videos are fake.

Citing the videos, Banerjee said on Sunday that the prime minister should be ashamed because the “BJP’s conspiracy” about Sandeshkhali has become public, reported The Indian Express.

“He should be ashamed for playing with the dignity of the women of Sandeshkhali by paying them,” Banerjee said at an election rally in North 24 Parganas. “I will not listen to any lectures from those who disrespect women…Women of Sandeshkhali did not even know what they had signed. They were made to file fake complaints.”

She also asked why Modi was maintaining a “stoic silence” on the sexual harassment allegations against West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose.

A contractual employee at the Raj Bhavan has accused Bose of inappropriately touching her on April 24 and on May 2.

“No woman is willing to visit Raj Bhavan after some shameful deeds came to light,” Banerjee said on Sunday. “Why did the PM not ask the governor to resign during his overnight stay at Raj Bhavan?”

The Kolkata Police has formed a special team to investigate the allegations against Bose, which he has described as “engineered narratives” for election benefits amid the Lok Sabha polls.

Sandeshkhali case

In early January, the Enforcement Directorate officials were allegedly attacked at Sandeshkhali in the state’s North 24 Parganas district when they were carrying out raids at Sheikh’s house in connection with an alleged ration distribution scam.

A mob had allegedly attacked the Enforcement Directorate officials with stones, bricks and batons.

Following this, several local women accused Sheikh and his associates, Shiba Prasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar, of torturing and sexually harassing them over several years and also of grabbing their lands for prawn cultivation.

The women had held protests demanding that the three men be arrested. They alleged that Sheikh and his associates used to survey homes to look for young women, whom they would take to the party office and sexually assault.

Sheikh was arrested by the police on February 29 after absconding for more than 50 days. While Sardar was arrested on February 11, Hazra was arrested on February 17.

On April 25, the Central Bureau of Investigation registered a first information report to investigate the allegations of land grabbing and sexual harassment.