Bengal’s Sandeshkhali on edge after attacks on TMC workers, their properties | Kolkata - Hindustan Times
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Bengal’s Sandeshkhali on edge after attacks on TMC workers, their properties

Feb 09, 2024 08:53 AM IST

Tension mounted on Thursday when hundreds of women carrying sticks, brooms, and farming tools blocked roads and demanded the arrest of two TMC workers

Sandeshkhali in West Bengal Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district remained on the edge after residents chased away ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) workers and torched properties of two of them believed to be close to the local party unit chief Sheikh Shahjahan, who has been on the run since the January 5 attack on Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials.

Security personnel during a raid at TMC functionary Shahjahan Sheikh's home at Sandeshkhali in January. (PTI/Representative)
Security personnel during a raid at TMC functionary Shahjahan Sheikh's home at Sandeshkhali in January. (PTI/Representative)

The ED officials were attacked during a raid at Shahjahan’s residence in connection with an alleged public distribution system (PDS) scam. Tension mounted on Thursday when hundreds of women carrying sticks, brooms, and farming tools blocked roads and demanded the arrest of Shiba Prasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar, whose properties were set afire hours earlier.

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A police officer said three cases have been lodged and two villagers have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the arson. “A police contingent has been deployed because of the tension.”

Archana Naskar, a Sandeshkhali resident, alleged Sardar and Hazra grabbed hundreds of acres of farmland over the last few years to run their fisheries. “They deprived people of homes under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and did not give us the money under the MGNREGS [Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme].”

Sukumar Mahata, the TMC legislator from Sandeshkhali, said at least 15 of their workers were injured on Wednesday night in what he described as a planned attack.

Residents alleged TMC workers threatened them and accused them of working for the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari said Sandeshkhali is sending a loud message that TMC is looking at its end.

The violence on Wednesday came hours after Shahjahan skipped the ED’s second summons days after police said he was untraceable. Shahjahan filed an anticipatory bail plea in a Kolkata court on January 30 after he failed to appear before the ED.

The ED has issued a lookout notice against Shahjahan saying he was likely to leave the country. On January 17, the Calcutta high court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and West Bengal Police to trace him.

On January 22, the ED petitioned the high court that it wanted only the CBI to probe the attack on its officials as police have not allegedly cooperated with federal agencies. The petition is yet to be heard.

The ED suspects the PDS scam involves around 20,000 crore. It arrested TMC leader Jyotipriya Mallick in the case in October. Food grains meant to be distributed under the PDS system were allegedly sold when Mallick was the state food minister between 2011 and 2021.

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