Sheikh Shahjahan, Main Accused in Sandeshkhali, to Appear in Court Today; Evaded Capture for 55 Days

TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan, accused of sexual assault against women in Sandeshkhali, West Bengal, has been apprehended by the police. His arrest took place on Thursday morning from the Meenakhan area of North 24 Parganas. He is scheduled to be presented before the Basirhat Court today after being on the run for 55 days.

Earlier, BJP MLA Shubhendu Adhikari had alleged that Shahjahan was taken into custody by the police on Tuesday night and has been in their custody since then. He was brought to the custody from a Barmajur Gram panchayat. TMC leader Shantanu Sen refuted these claims, stating that Shubhendu was making false accusations.

In Sandeshkhali, Sheikh Shahjahan, along with his two associates Shibu Hazra and Uttam Sardar, is accused of sexually assaulting women. The police have arrested 18 people, including Shibu Hazra and Uttam Sardar, in connection with this case.

Sheikh Shahjahan is a district-level leader of the TMC. He had faced raids by the ED in a ration embezzlement case on January 5th, after which more than 200 of his supporters attacked the team. Officials had to resort to saving their lives, after which Sheikh Shahjahan went into hiding.

On January 5, the ED team reached Sandeshkhali to raid Sheikh Shah Jahan's house. The mob then attacked the team, injuring an ED officer.

Kolkata High Court’s Stern Remark on Sheikh Shahjahan’s Arrest

The Kolkata High Court has once again reprimanded the state government for the arrest of Sheikh Shahjahan. Chief Justice TS Shivagyanam issued orders for the police to present Shahjahan in court in the upcoming hearing, considering all circumstances. No stay has been placed on his arrest.

The court expressed astonishment that it took the police four years to inform them about the incidents of abuse in Sandeshkhali. There are 42 cases of sexual assault, but it has taken four years to file chargesheets. The court has ordered that on March 4th, a hearing will be held where representatives from the CBI, ED, Sheikh Shahjahan, the Police Chief, and representatives from the Bengal government must be present in court.

On Sunday, when two Bengal government ministers, Partha Bhowmik and Sujit Basu, reached Haldarpada in Sandeshkhali, the women lashed out at them.

Allegations of Coercion and Land Grabbing in North 24 Parganas’ Sandeshkhali

In the Sandeshkhali region of North 24 Parganas district, allegations of coercion and land grabbing were raised against TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan and his supporters. Following these allegations, local women in Sandeshkhali staged protests, demanding the arrest of the accused.

Women protesters set TMC leader Shivprasad Hazara's farm house on fire in Sandeshkhali on February 11.

How Shahjahan Transformed from a Laborer to a Controversial Figure

Shahjahan’s transition from a laborer to an influential figure in the political landscape has raised eyebrows. He initially worked in fishery centers and sold vegetables between 2000-2001. Later, he ventured into brick kilns and then formed a labor union. He eventually joined the CPM when the Singur and Nandigram movements saw shifts in power dynamics. In 2012, backed by then TMC Secretary General Mukul Roy and powerful leader Jyotipri Malik from North 24 Parganas district, Shahjahan cemented his position within the party. 

He is currently under investigation by the Enforcement Directorate in a ration embezzlement case. Villagers have reported numerous fish drying centers, brick kilns, and hundreds of acres of land allegedly owned by him, estimating his assets to be worth billions.

ED alleged that more than 1 thousand people attacked his car.

Allegations of Ration Embezzlement Amidst the Pandemic in West Bengal

During the COVID-19 pandemic in West Bengal, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted raids at 15 locations on January 5th in connection with the alleged embezzlement of thousands of crores of rupees in ration supplies. A team from North 24 Parganas district went to the homes of Sheikh Shahjahan and Shankar Adhikari in the Sandeshkhali village to carry out searches. 

Amidst the operation, supporters of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) launched an attack against them, resulting in injuries to three officials. Consequently, Sheikh Shahjahan went into hiding. A lookout notice has been issued against him.

Niyati Rao

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