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Bengal: Sandeshkhali History Sheeter & TMC Leader Shahjahan Arrested, Villagers Celebrate

The TMC strongman, who allegedly unleashed a “reign of terror” in the area, especially on women, was sent to 10-day police custody.
Bengal: Sandeshkhali History Sheeter & TMC Leader Shahjahan Arrested, Villagers Celebrate

Shahjahan was produced in the Bashirhaat local court, which sent him to 10 days in police custody.

Kolkata/Bashirhaat: The “terror reign” of ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) zilla parishad member and history sheeter Shahjahan Sheikh seems to be over, at least for some time. The police finally arrested him in the wee hours on Thursday reportedly from Minakhah block of North 24 Parganas district. The TMC leader is accused of alleged sexual atrocities on women and land grabbing.

Within hours of his arrest, Shahjahan was produced in Bashirhaat's local court, which sent him to 10 days in police custody.

Recall that on January 5, 2024, Enforcement Directorate (ED) officers were beaten up while on a probe about an alleged scam in the rationing system. They had gone for a search operation in Shahjahan’s house. Several journalists were also injured in the attack allegedly by Shahjahan’s men.

It nearly the police 54 days to nab the main accused in the ED officials, who is also implicated in various cases of alleged rape, arson, loot, murder and grabbing arable land of Sandeshkhali residents. Over 10 cases are pending against him, said sources.

However, the police of Thursday only pressed two charges in court on the history sheeter, who allegedly enjoys the direct patronage of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had a few days ago said that Shahjahan had been “framed” and those raising fingers against him were Sandeshkhali “outsiders”.

Even after his arrest, he was not handcuffed, despite being an alleged “serious offender” who has murder and rape charges against him.

Read Also: Bengal: Sandeshkhali Women Narrate Tales of Agony to CPI(M) Leader Brinda Karat

Interestingly, after the news of Shahjahan’s arrest spread across the Sandeshkhali region, there was widespread joy as women began playing ‘Holi’ with abeer (red and pink coloured powder). Children reportedly started bursting crackers. However, the state government once again imposed Section 144 (prohibitory orders) in the area, apprehending law and order problems as well as possible communal flare-up in the area, citing an intelligence report.

At a press conference on Thursday, Supratim Sarkar, the ADG, law and order, broke the news of the TMC leader’s arrest, and while facing a barrage of questions from the media, admitted that only two cases had now been pressed against Shahjahan. He said all other cases filed were at the “complaint stage”. His statement is being seen as an attempt by the state authorities to play down the allegation by numerous villagers of large-scale atrocities by him and his “Cobra” team (over 70 motorcycle-borne youth).

Several villagers, mostly women, have told reporters how the men in their families were beaten up when they complained about sexual assaults.  

Shahjahan had been absconding along with Zilla Parishad member Shibu Hazra. Sheikh, Hazra and Uttam Sardar are the three names called out by the victims of their alleged atrocities in the peripheral area of the Sundarbans.  

West Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose, who visited Sandeshkhali, had also witnessed the wrath of the angry villagers.

As the stories of land grab and sexual atrocities started coming out, angry villagers reacted against the alleged harassers and vandalised the businesses and houses of the alleged perpetrators. The villagers destroyed a poultry farm and an animal husbandry farm owned by Hazra and Sardar, respectively. 

While Hazra and Shahjahan were absconding, Sardar was caught by angry villagers, who thrashed him and handed him over to the police. The police were forced to arrest him. 

Despite absconding, Hazra filed an FIR against 111 villagers, including Nirapada Sardar, for destroying his husbandry farm. Nirapada Sardar is CPI(M) leader and secretary of the All-India Agricultural Workers Union. He was attending the state committee meeting of CPI(M) in Kolkata when Hazra's property was attacked by the villagers. 

Despite this, the police arrested Nirapada Sardar from Kolkata and took him to Bansdroni police station. After making him wait for five hours, he was handed over to the Bashirhaat police station.  After Spending 17 days in the jail on frivolous charges, he was granted bail on Thursday, with the court commenting that the CPI(M) leader had been arrested on frivolous charges. The court even recommended action against the erring police officers for harassing and putting an innocent person in jail.

NewsClick spoke with Nirapada Sardar, who was an MLA from Sandeshkhali till 2016 and is a CPI(M) state committee member.

“Shahjahan Sheikh or Sheikh Shahjahan, was so long under the watchful eye of the police, and his arrest was made only after the Chief Minister gave a nod to the arrest of her blue-eyed boy. In all these 54 days, when charges were first brought by the ED, Shahjahan had free passage in conniving with the police. While the police at the same time, to muffle the people's voice, arrested me on frivolous charges,” he said.

The CPI(M) leader said though later in the court of law it was proved that the state government was particularly sympathetic to this ‘history sheeter’. He said Shahjahan is considered close to now jailed state minister Jyotipriyo Mullick, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee and TMC scion Abhishek Banerjee.

“His reign of terror was unimaginable whereby women were raped, people were beaten up, and even a former BDO (block development officer) was beaten up and had to be hospitalised, But, Shahjahan, a zilla parishad member remained, unharmed because of his proximity to the supremo of the ruling party”, he alleged.

CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty told NewsClick that the arrests in the Sandeshkhali case were long overdue and the Chief Minister was directly responsible for the lackadaisical showing of the police who only arrested the history sheeter after giving him a free hand for at least 54 days.

According to reports, various other history sheeters, including Jiauddin Mollah, the head of the Sarberia Agarpara gram panchayat, and Kadre Mollah of the Hatgachi gram panchayat were the other TMC leaders, who allegedly part of the “terror reign” along with Shahjahan’s brother, Sirajuddin.

Eye witnesses told NewsClick that the “reign of terror” had started after 2013 and escalated after the 2016 Assembly elections.

Shahjahan now owns over Rs 100 crore worth of property and has allegedly created this empire by taking ‘rangdari’ (extortion) in areas such as Bayalmari, Kanmari, Sarberia, Dhamakhali, Najat and so on.

As of now, only the kingpins of the Sandeshkhali case have been arrested. Their accomplices are still loitering around freely in the nine island areas of Sandeshkhali. Villagers still fear that they will try to keep up their “terror reign” with the help of police.

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