Day after HC order, CBI creates email ID for Sandeshkhali victims in Bengal | Kolkata - Hindustan Times
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Day after HC order, CBI creates email ID for Sandeshkhali victims in Bengal

Apr 11, 2024 08:39 PM IST

The Calcutta high court order was passed by the division bench that was hearing a suo motu motion on the alleged offences in Sandeshkhali

KOLKATA: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday created an email ID to receive complaints from residents of strife-torn Sandeshkhali in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas.

Vandalised farm house of arrested TMC leader Shibaprasad Hazra over land grab and violence against women at Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas in West Bengal. (HT FILE PHOTO/Samir Jana)
Vandalised farm house of arrested TMC leader Shibaprasad Hazra over land grab and violence against women at Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas in West Bengal. (HT FILE PHOTO/Samir Jana)

“A dedicated email ID sandeshkhali@cbi.gov.in has been created on the orders of the Calcutta high court so that villagers may lodge their complaints directly with the agency,” a senior CBI officer said on Thursday. The official added that the Calcutta high court, which ordered the CBI to investigate all allegations levelled by the people, instructed the federal agency to set up a dedicated email ID to ensure confidentiality,

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The high court order was passed by the division bench of chief justice TS Sivagnanam and justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya who were hearing a suo motu motion on the alleged offences, ranging from land-grab and exploitation to sexual harassment and rape, and petitions seeking the transfer of investigation into these from the local police to CBI.

The riverine island of Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas district has been in the eye of the storm since January 5, when Enforcement Directorate (ED) officers arrived to search the home of Shahjahan, a close aide of former minister Jyoti Priya Mallick, who was arrested in October last year in connection with an alleged ration distribution scam. The ED team came under attack from an angry mob, leaving three officers injured.

But, on February 7, other violent protests began erupting in Sandeshkhali and other nearby villages, with groups of residents, led mostly by local women, alleging sexual harassment at the hands of local TMC leaders including Shahjahan, his brother Sirajuddin, and other associates Uttam Hazra and Shibu Sardar. Other villages said that Shahjahan and his associates also indulged in land-grab.

Shahjahan, a former TMC zila parishad leader, was arrested by the state police on the orders of the high court on February 29 after 55 days on the run. Although state CID took over the investigation, Shahjahan was handed over to CBI under court orders.

The state government has repeatedly accused the Opposition of politicising the event. But the BJP has sought to use Sandeshkhali as a referendum on the TMC government’s grip on law and order in the state. A number of national panels — including the National Commission of Women, the National Commission of Scheduled Castes and the National Commission of Scheduled Tribes — have visited the area and later said that they documented serious allegations against Sheikh and his associates.

Hours after the Calcutta high court order, there was fresh tension in Sandeshkhali late on Wednesday night after a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker’s property was set on fire.

BJP worker Subrata Mondol alleged that Trinamool Congress-backed goons set his shelter used to guard fish farms afire at about 11pm on Wednesday.

Mondol, who was one of the protestors when the island was on the edge in February, told reporters that the TMC that the shelter was gutted. “Luckily I was not there. Else I would have died.”

“We have received a complaint. Investigation is going on. None one has been arrested so far,” said an officer of Sandeshkhali police station.

Local TMC leaders, however, refuted the charges saying that investigation will prove everything.

“These are baseless allegations. No TMC worker or supporter are involved. Let the police investigate. Everything will come out,” said Sahidulla Gaji, a local TMC leader.

Meanwhile, state urban development minister Firhad Hakim said the CBI had turned into an extension of the BJP. “The CBI has lost its existence. The fear factor is lost. The BJP has turned the CBI into an agency, which no one takes seriously, just like the traffic police,” he said.

The BJP promptly hit back. “Being a minister, he has maligned the state police. This is a self goal. During bad times people make such self goals. People fear and respect those police officers who are impartial,” said Sukanta Majumdar, state BJP president.

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