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  4. OPINION | SANDESHKHALI: MAMATA WILL NOW HAVE TO REPLY TO THE PUBLIC

OPINION | SANDESHKHALI: MAMATA WILL NOW HAVE TO REPLY TO THE PUBLIC

On Monday, the Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court ordered the state police to include Shahjahan Sheikh’s name in the FIR and said there was no justification for not arresting him.

Rajat Sharma Written By: Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive New Delhi Updated on: February 28, 2024 6:06 IST
India TV Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma
Image Source : INDIA TV India TV Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma

For the first time in recent weeks, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee appeared to be under public pressure on Monday. Even her party leaders have started saying that the local Trinamool strongman in Sandeshkhali, Shahjahan Sheikh, will be arrested soon. Already three local Trinamool leaders – Uttam Sardar, Ajit Maity and Shibaprasad Hazra – have been arrested. On Monday, the Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court ordered the state police to include Shahjahan Sheikh’s name in the FIR and said there was no justification for not arresting him. Shahjahan Sheikh is absconding since January 5 when his goons attacked a team of Enforcement Directorate in Sandeshkhali. The High Court asked the government why Shahjahan Sheikh has not been arrested despite serious criminal complaints filed against him during the last four years.  

The Chief Justice made it clear that no court stay has been granted to prevent the arrest of Shahjahan and he must be taken into custody. It may be recalled that Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and Trinamool leader Abhishek Banerjee had claimed a day ago that it was the High Court which had stayed ED probe against Shahjahan and police was helpless. Already, there is public unrest in Sandeshkhali. A group of women protesters barged into the house of a local TMC leader Shankar Sardar, who they alleged, was part of the group who sexually abused local women and grabbed land of local people. BJP leader Dilip Ghosh alleged that Mamata Banerjee and Trinamool Congress are protecting Shahjahan Sheikh and are preventing fact-finding teams from visiting Sandeshkhali. On Tuesday, an ISF (Indian Secular Front) MLA Naushad Siddiqui was arrested while proceeding to Sandeshkhali. West Bengal Governor C V Ananda Bose said, after the High Court order, police must not delay in arresting Shahjahan Sheikh. 

From an overall point of view, the atrocities in Sandeshkhali would never have come to national limelight, had Shahjahan Sheikh’s goons not attacked the ED team which had gone to his house for probing his role in the ration scam. It was only then that people  came to know about Shahjahan Sheikh’s crimes. Para-military forces had to be deployed, BJP leaders visited the riverine area, the High Court had to intervene and only then the people of Sandeshkhali began feeling that they would now get justice and Shahjahan’s atrocities would come to an end. It has now come to notice that Shahjahan Sheikh and his goons have forcibly occupied most of the land in Sandeshkhali. They were extorting money from each family on a weekly basis. Any person refusing to pay ‘cut money’ was deprived of PDS ration. People living in this area were getting ration only after getting a nod from Shahjahan. This strongman’s goons used to forcibly abduct women and girls from their homes and sexually abuse them. The families of rape survivors were threatened not to open their mouth. The local police in Sandeshkhali was working at his behest. When all these allegations started pouring in, Mamata Banerjee and her police did not take any action against Shahjahan and his goons. 

Soon after, videos of women narrating their tales of woes started surfacing. Even then, Mamata did not take any action. Had Mamata taken action at that time and not labelled the allegations of women as “lies”, had she ordered immediate arrest of Shahjahan, the issue would not have been blown out of proportions. But Mamata tried to give political colour and the issue has now gone out of her hand. Mamata realized that she could lose Hindu voters in her quest to appease Muslim voters. She felt that she could lose the whole of Bengal because of one Sheikh. It was only then that she decided to take action. Mamata knows how the Nandigram violence in 2007 finally dislodged the Left from power and uprooted the Marxists.  By highlighting Nandigram, Mamata had brought “Poriborton” (change) in Bengal. Now since the boot is on the other foot, she is trying her best to avoid a Nandigram in Sandeshkhali. She would not like the BJP to take political advantage of the situation. This is the reason why Mamata and her police are now forced to take action against Shahjahan Sheikh, who has dozens of criminal cases against him. There are several thousand witnesses against him. It could be that Shahjahan Sheikh may be arrested soon, but it is too late. Mamata’s government will have to answer questions before the court, and Mamata Banerjee will also have to give explanations in the court of people (Janata Ki Adalat).

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