Sandeshkali incident: TMC hails arrest of absconding leader Shajahan; BJP terms it scripted

BJP MP Dilip Ghosh with party leader Agnimitra Paul and others during a sit-in 'dharna' against the state government over the Sandeshkhali incident, in Kolkata, Wednesday, February 28, 2024. Photo: PTI

Kolkata: The ruling Trinamool Congress on Thursday hailed the arrest of absconding party leader Shajahan Sheikh, accused of torturing villagers in the trouble-torn Sandeshkhali area, and said it was possible only after the court cleared the decks and accused the opposition of exploiting the earlier "embargo" on his arrest.

The BJP dubbed the arrest as scripted and claimed he was in the safe custody of West Bengal Police. Sheikh, accused of alleged sexual atrocities on women and land grabbing in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali, was arrested on Thursday morning, police said. He was arrested from a house at Minakhah in North 24 Parganas district where he was hiding, they said.

"Due to a legal tangle, he couldn't be arrested initially. However, after the court clarified that there was no stay on his arrest, the West Bengal Police did its job. The opposition had earlier exploited the embargo on his arrest," TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh told PTI.

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 state's ruling party 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," he said.

The opposition BJP, which had claimed that Sheikh was in "safe custody" of state police since Tuesday night, dubbed the arrest as scripted.

"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.

The riverine Sandeshkhali area -- situated on the borders of the Sunderbans, about 100 kilometres from Kolkata -- has been on the boil for more than a month with protests over allegations of sexual abuse and land grab against local TMC leader Shajahan Sheikh and his supporters.

Sheikh was at large since an ED team that went to raid his house in connection with the alleged ration scam was attacked by a mob of around 1,000 people on January 5.

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