How Shahjahan Sheikh scripted rags-to-riches story by maintaining political clout | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

How Shahjahan Sheikh scripted rags-to-riches story by maintaining political clout

Feb 28, 2024 01:30 PM IST

A police officer said that Trinamool Congress (TMC) functionary Shahjahan Sheikh, 42, has stayed on the right side of power for the last 20 years

Almost two decades before he hit the national headlines, Trinamool Congress (TMC) functionary Shahjahan Sheikh, 42, had his first brush with the law in 2006 when he was summoned to a police station for the first time. Sheikh was then in his 20s and worked as an agent at a fish market in West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali.

TMC functionary Shahjahan Sheikh. (Sourced.)
TMC functionary Shahjahan Sheikh. (Sourced.)

He showed no fear, said a police officer. It was soon clear why. Sheikh was left off within half an hour and the police station in charge was transferred days later. Sheikh’s close association with a local functionary of the then-ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) apparently worked.

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Sheikh’s rags-to-riches story continued as he maintained his political clout by defecting to TMC a year before it was voted to power first in 2011 after 34-year Left Front rule. He has over the years amassed bank deposits of over 2 crore, a fleet of 17 cars, and 40-odd bighas of agricultural land. It is a far cry from his days at a brick kiln, where he worked as a daily wager for 50 per day.

The police officer cited above said Sheikh has stayed on the right side of power for the last 20 years. “From 2004 to 2010, he was considered the most influential worker in the Sandeshkhali region. In 2010, he changed sides and joined [chief minister] Mamata Banerjee’s TMC...within years, he became the convener of TMC Sandeshkhali, North 24 Parganas,” said the officer on condition of anonymity.

Repeated protests in Sandeshkhali have kept Sheikh, who has been on the run, in the news. Sandeshkhali residents have taken to the streets demanding the arrest of Shahjahan and his aides over allegations of sexual assault and land grabbing.

Sheikh has been absconding since January 5 when a mob, allegedly comprising his supporters, attacked an Enforcement Directorate (ED) team when it sought to search his premises in a money laundering case linked to an alleged ration distribution scam.

Local TMC functionaries and Sheikh’s aides Shibaprasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar have been among 18 people, arrested in connection with complaints of sexual assault, land grabbing, and inciting violence in Sandeshkhali.

The officer cited above said until Sheikh came under the national spotlight, his reign of terror was so effective that the local police did not dare file a case against him. He added 16 land grabbing, 13 murder or attempt to murder five rape, and 17 criminal conspiracy complaints were filed against him just between 2020 and 2023 at different police stations. “But none of these complaints could take the shape of FIR [First Information Report]. He has no fear of law. He openly says ‘nobody can even touch me’,” he said.

An ED officer said when the central agency filed a complaint after its team was attacked on January 5, an FIR was filed under bailable charges and non-scheduled offences.

“Our complaints were under [Indian Penal Code] sections 307 [murder attempt], 333 [voluntarily causing grievous hurt], 326 [voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means] 353 [ uses or threat to use criminal force specifically to deter public servants from performing their duty], 392 [robbery], 395 [dacoity], 397 [robbery or dacoity with an attempt to cause death or grievous hurt], 149 [unlawful assembly], 148 [rioting], 186 [ voluntarily obstructing any public servant], 189 [ threat of injury to any public servant], 426 [mischief], 435 [mischief by fire or any explosive substance], 440 [mischief with the intent to cause death, hurt, wrongful restraint, or fear of death or hurt], 341 [wrongful restraint] and 342 [wrongfully confining any person] reference with section 120B [ criminal conspiracy], 109 [abetment] and 115 [abetment of offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life].”

The ED officer said the police registered an FIR only under available sections 147, 148, 149, 341, 186, 353, 323, 427, 379, 504. He added Sheikh has not also provided the details and sources of his properties.

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    In his reporting career of over 20 years, Sanjeev K Jha has covered bureaucracy, politics, ISI activities in border areas, music and Bollywood. Presently, he covers crime in the national Capital.

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