Sandeshkhali: TMC Leader Sheikh Shahjahan Held Post Women's Protests

Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan was arrested on February 29 from a hideout in Minakhah, North 24 Parganas of West Bengal. Following an investigation, he has been suspended for six years for attacking Enforcement Directorate officials.

Tanya Savkoor
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Image: ANI

Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan was arrested on February 29 and suspended for six years after he confessed to inciting a mob attack on an Enforcement Directorate team last month. The Zilla Parishad functionary had been on the run for 55 days and arrested from a hideout in Minakhah, North 24 Parganas, police told the Press Trust of India. Shahjahan is also the prime accused in the Sandeshkhali alleged sexual assault and land-grabbing case, causing violent protests since February 15 demanding his arrest.


TMC MP Derek O'Brien told the media that Shahjahan has been suspended for six years, given the Sandeshkhali case. The 53-year-old accused was sent to 10-day police custody at the Basirhat court where he admitted to his role in the attack on the probe agency officials who were raiding his premises in a ration scam case on January 5. He has been produced at the CID headquarters in Kolkata, which is now reportedly taking over the case.

Sandeshkhali Case: Protests Demanding Arrest

While police were on the lookout for Shahjahan following the ED attack, massive riots broke out in Sandeshkhali, a village located in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal, as protestors, mostly women, demanded the arrest of TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan. They accused him of sexual assault, land grabbing, and unwarranted arrests of the men in their families.

The Sandeshkhali riots escalated as a political blame game unfolded between TMC and the Opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Calcutta High Court and Supreme Court of India heard pleas for the formation of a Special Investigation Team or Central Bureau of Investigation team to probe the protestors' accusations.

Meanwhile, the National Women's Commission sent its fact-finding team to hear the Sandeshkhali women's woes. "Disturbing testimonies gathered from women in the village painted a harrowing picture of widespread fear and systematic abuse," the team told the media. 

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee assured that more than 17 arrests have been made in the case and they are probing the matter. These include Shahjahan's close aides and fellow accused, Uttam Sardar and Shiba Prasad Hazra. On February 19, a Bengali journalist was reportedly arrested for questioning TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee about the Sandeshkhali situation.


Order To Arrest Shahjahan

West Bengal Governor C V Ananda Bose had asked the State government to file a report within 72 hours detailing the atrocities involving Shahjahan in Sandeshkhali, an unnamed official told PTI. "In the light of the decision of the Calcutta High Court, the prime accused in the Sandeshkhali incidents, Shahjahan Sheikh, may be arrested immediately, failing which reasons for the same may be reported within 72 hours," Bose wrote.

The Calcutta High Court was told that 43 FIRs were registered till December last year, of which 42 had resulted in charge sheets. "As far as grabbing land of tribal community members, seven cases were started," the court was told, "Since February 8, 24 cases of land grabbing and various sections were filed... Obviously, he (Shahjahan) must be arrested" the Court observed. 

On February 26, the High Court directed that Shajahan, the Enforcement Directorate, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Superintendent of Police, and the State's Home Secretary representing the West Bengal government be impleaded as parties in the suo motu matter initiated on the allegations of sexual atrocities on women and the land grab of tribal people.

Trinamool Congress sheikh shahjahan sandeshkhali