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regular-article-logo Thursday, 25 April 2024

Sandeshkhali: ISF MLA Naushad Siddiqui arrested, former CPM MLA Nirapad Sardar granted bail

Though a delegation of pro-Left actors and singers managed to sneak into Sandeshkhali on Tuesday and speak with villagers, Siddiqui and other Opposition politicians were barred from entering the troubled spot

Arnab Ganguly Calcutta Published 27.02.24, 07:27 PM
Naushad Siddiqui and Nirapad Sardar.

Naushad Siddiqui and Nirapad Sardar. File picture.

The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday granted unconditional bail to the former Sandeshkhali MLA of the CPM, Nirapada Sardar, after spending more than a fortnight behind bars for being accused of inciting protests in the troubled island.

The court’s order came on the day when the sitting Bhangar MLA of the Indian Secular Front, Naushad Siddiqui, was arrested on way to Sandeshkhali.

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“It is surprising to the court that the police arrested a citizen on the basis of a complaint. If the police arrest someone on the basis of a complaint, why should the police not be arrested in the same process?” asked the bench of Justices Devangshu Basak and Mohammad Shabbar Rashidi, while granting bail to Sardar. “Who will compensate a citizen who has been arrested for so long?”

Sardar was arrested from his south Calcutta residence on February 11.

“The court questioned how an FIR was filed on February 9 and the complaint filed against him on February 10,” said Sudipta Sengupta, advocate who represented Sardar in the case.

The Basirhat police was instructed to release Sardar by Tuesday night or face contempt of court charges.

Though a delegation of pro-Left actors and singers managed to sneak into Sandeshkhali on Tuesday and speak with villagers, Siddiqui and other Opposition politicians were barred from entering the troubled spot, which till early February ran according to the writ of the absconding Trinamul strongman and North 24-Parganas Zilla Parishad functionary Sheikh Shahjahan.

Shahjahan, his brother Sheikh Sirajuddin and associates --- Uttam Sardar, Shibprasad Hazra, Ajit Maity and others – have been accused of forcibly acquiring farmland from the villagers and also sexual exploitation of several women.

“I don’t know why they arrested me. This is several kilometres away from Sandeshkhali,” Siddiqui told mediapersons after he was stopped at Science City, some 69 km away. “I was going there to meet the villagers. I did not break any rules. Why was I stopped here if prohibitory orders have been imposed in Sandeshkhali?”

Delegations from the Congress and the Left Front constituent, Forward Bloc, were also stopped en route.

Bengal Congress spokesperson Soumya Roy Aich, South 24-Parganas district unit president Jayanta Das, and North 24-Parganas (rural) district unit president Amit Majumdar and others were stopped at Najat. Later when they blocked the road, they were taken to the local police station. A Forward Bloc delegation led by former lawmaker Haripada Biswas was stopped thrice at Malancha, Rampur and Dhamakhali, where they held a demonstration.

The BJP fielded the new Chhattisgarh chief minister Vishnu Deo Sai, the first tribal chief minister, who shot off a letter to his Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee, urging her to take action against the culprits in Sandeshkhali.

In his letter written in Hindi, which was made public on his X handle, Sai, alleged more than 50 tribal women were raped in Sandeshkhali and farmland belonging to thousands of tribal families were snatched from them.

“As the chief minister of Bengal, it is expected that you will take prompt and strict action against the perpetrators. Along with criminals like Shahjahan and Sirajuddin, their political guardians should also be brought to book,” wrote the Chhattisgarh chief minister, urging Mamata to rise above partisan politics.

Governor CV Ananda Bose, who had visited trouble-torn Sandeshkhali earlier this month, also wrote to the state government, calling for the immediate arrest of Shahjahan. The Governor has also sought an explanation from the state government in case Shahjahan is not arrested within 72 hours.

Debdut Ghosh, Badshah Moitra and others at Sandeshkhali.

Debdut Ghosh, Badshah Moitra and others at Sandeshkhali. The Telegraph Online.

A CPM delegation led by the party’s Bengal unit secretary Mohammad Salim will visit Sandeshkhali on Thursday. “When women came out against the atrocities committed by the local Trinamul leaders, Nirapada was arrested. The high court has clearly stated the police department must clarify which officer arrested him and on whose orders,” said Salim. “We will go to Sandeshkhali on February 29 with Nirapada.”

“Mamata Banerjee must answer why Sheikh Shahjahan is still free. She must answer why I was arrested,” said Sardar after emerging from the prison on Tuesday evening. “When I tried to raise the problems faced by the people of Sandeshkhali, I was not allowed to speak. Now those things are getting revealed.”

The Left-minded representatives, who visited Sandeshkhali earlier on Tuesday, said most of the menfolk in the villages have left for work to other states. They have recorded the statements of the Sandeshkhali women, which would be released on their individual social media profiles.

“We left very early in the morning to avoid the police. Villagers alerted us about cops. We left because we did not want the villagers to face any trouble,” said Badshah Maitra, actor. Debdut Ghosh, who had contested on a CPM ticket in the 2021 Assembly polls, said, “It appears Sandeshkhali has a different law than the rest of the state. A parallel government runs in Sandeshkhali. If the government does not establish the rule of the law as early as possible, people will give a befitting reply.”

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