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TMC says police arrested Shajahan after court cleared the decks, BJP dubs it scripted

Due to legal complexities, his arrest was initially hindered. However, following the court's clarification that no stay was imposed on his arrest, the West Bengal Police executed their duty. The Opposition had earlier exploited the constraints on his apprehension: TMC's Kunal Ghosh

PTI Calcutta Published 29.02.24, 07:16 PM
Trinamul Congress leader Sheikh Shajahan, accused of sexual violence and land grabbing in Sandeshkhali village, being produced at the Basirhat court, in North 24 Parganas.

Trinamul Congress leader Sheikh Shajahan, accused of sexual violence and land grabbing in Sandeshkhali village, being produced at the Basirhat court, in North 24 Parganas. File picture.

The ruling Trinamul Congress (TMC) on Thursday commended the arrest of Shajahan Sheikh, a party leader accused of torturing villagers in trouble-torn Sandeshkhali, attributing it to court's facilitation of legal action and accused the opposition of exploiting the previous embargo on his arrest.

In contrast, the BJP dismissed Sheikh's arrest as contrived, asserting that he had been under the protective custody of the West Bengal Police.

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Sheikh, facing allegations of sexual misconduct and land encroachment in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali, was apprehended on Thursday morning, police said.

"Due to legal complexities, his arrest was initially hindered. However, following the court's clarification that no stay was imposed on his arrest, the West Bengal Police executed their duty. The opposition had earlier exploited the constraints on his apprehension," TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said.

The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday directed that Sheikh can be arrested by the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) or the West Bengal Police.

On Monday, the high court directed police to arrest Sheikh, following which the TMC asserted that it does not shield culprits and he would be arrested within seven days.

"We had said he would be arrested in seven days as we were confident of the ability of the state police. Now, the CBI and ED should take action against BJP leaders who are also accused of corruption and other crimes," Ghosh said.

On Thursday evening, TMC's chief spokesperson Derek O'Brien announced the party's decision to suspend Sheikh for six years, underscoring their unwavering stance against malfeasance.

"We have decided to suspend Shajahan Sheikh from the party for six years. As always, we walk the talk. We have set examples in the past, and we are doing that today. But we dare the BJP to suspend leaders, who have corruption cases against them and have several criminal cases against them," O'Brien, the TMC Rajya Sabha party leader, said.

However, dissenting voices within the party surfaced, with North Bengal Development Minister Udayan Guha contending that Sheikh was ensnared through malicious propaganda.

"Shajahan has been trapped by spreading canards against him. We have never heard any complaints about him. It seems it was a political trap to frame him," he said.

TMC MP Dr Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar said, "On Sunday, our national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee had pointed out how it was only due to a legal hurdle that Bengal police was not able to arrest Shajahan. This stay was imposed due to the intervention of ED officials." The BJP, which had previously alleged that Sheikh was under police protection, condemned the arrest as stage-managed.

BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar characterised it as a premeditated move orchestrated by the TMC and state police.

"It was the TMC and the state police which were shielding the culprits. He has been arrested as part of a well-scripted story. The state administration was forced to arrest him because of continuous agitation by the state BJP unit," BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said.

He dubbed the arrest of Shajahan Sheikh as a "legal protection" given to him by the West Bengal Police.

"Shajahan has been arrested so that he can be protected from the CBI and the ED. It was due to the non-cooperation by the West Bengal Police that he couldn't be arrested by the ED and was on the run for so long," he said.

Amit Malviya, BJP's co-incharge for West Bengal, echoed similar sentiments, accusing the state police of shielding Sheikh from federal probe agencies.

Taking to X, Malviya, who is also the BJP's IT cell head, said, "Is this an arrest? WB Police is escorting Sheikh Shahjahan like they would escort CM Mamata Banerjee. All these days, Sheikh Shahjahan was under the protection of WB Police." "As soon as the Calcutta High Court allowed ED and CBI to arrest Sheikh Shahjahan, Mamata Banerjee's police took control of him. They hurriedly took him to a local Court, to preclude ED and CBI lawyers from getting in. No wonder women of #Sandeshkhali have no faith in Mamata Banerjee," he added.

Sheikh's arrest, following a 55-day evasion period marked by violent protests, has ignited a fierce political debate.

Additional Director-General of Police (South Bengal) Supratim Sarkar revealed that Sheikh was captured in Bamanpukur, approximately 30 km from Sandeshkhali island.

Presented before Basirhat court, Sheikh was granted a 10-day remand in police custody.

The Sandeshkhali region, located on the fringes of the Sunderbans, has been engulfed in turmoil for over a month due to accusations against Sheikh and his cohorts of sexual abuse and land grab.

Sheikh's evasion began after an ED team investigating an alleged ration scam was assaulted by a mob outside his residence on January 5.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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