Sandeshkhali: Who is TMC's Sheikh Shahjahan targeted by BJP over sexual abuse? | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Sandeshkhali: Who is TMC's Sheikh Shahjahan targeted by BJP over sexual abuse?

Feb 17, 2024 12:02 PM IST

Sheikh Shahjahan is charged with a host of offences ranging from money laundering to harassment.

Tensions remain high in Sandeshkhali, an assembly constituency in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district, over allegations of harassment and exploitation by local Trinamool Congress leaders.

LocaL TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh
LocaL TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh

Sandeshkhali came to the spotlight on January 7 when an Enforcement Directorate team that arrived to raid local TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan’s house in connection with the public distribution system scam was attacked by a mob.

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Even as Sheikh Shahjahan has evaded arrest, since February 7, villagers led by local women have held violent protests against alleged harassment and exploitation by local TMC leaders.

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Shahjahan is charged with a host of offences ranging from money laundering to harassment. He is absconding.

While the ruling West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for the tensions, the BJP and Congress have accused the TMC chief of protecting those accused of sexual exploitation.

"Sheikh Shahjahan and his gang established a 'reign of terror' where the dignity and modesty of women from the SC and ST communities have been repeatedly violated," Leader of opposition in West Bengal and BJP Nandigram MLA wrote on X on February 11.

Union minister Smriti Irani had also criticised Mamata Banerjee alleging that young Hindu married women are being deliberately targetted in Sandeshkhali.

“Mamata Banerjee is known for the genocide of Hindus. She will now allow her men to pick young married Hindu women to be raped in the TMC office…” she said on February 12.

On Friday, Senior leaders of the BJP and the Congress were stopped by police on Friday from visiting the trouble-torn Sandeshkhali, escalating the political tensions in the state.

Who is Sheikh Shahjahan?

  • Shahjahan Sheikh, 42, is popularly known as "Bhai", who started as a small-time worker in the fisheries of the Sandeshkhali block in North 24 Parganas near the Bangladesh border.
  • Sheikh began as a worker in fisheries and brick kilns in Sandeshkhali. He is the eldest of four siblings.
  • Sheikh entered politics in 2004 as a union leader in the brick kilns. He later joined the local CPI(M) unit, maintaining his presence despite the changing political landscape in West Bengal.
  • Known for fiery speeches and organisational skills, Sheikh caught the attention of Trinamool Congress leadership in 2012.
  • The 42-year-old worked under the leadership of the then TMC national general secretary Mukul Roy and North 24 Parganas TMC district president Jyotipriyo Mullick. He quickly ascended in power, becoming a close associate of Mullick.
  • In 2018, Sheikh gained prominence as the deputy head of the Sarberia Agarhati gram panchayat. His younger brothers are also active TMC workers. They also manage his business, including land dealings
  • Sheikh is also a go-to figure for conflict resolution in the area, mediating family disputes and land disagreements.
  • According to a local TMC leader, quoted by news agency PTI, Sheikh commands both respect and fear in the region. "To some, he is a messiah; to his detractors, he is a terror. He carries a Robin Hood image in the area," the TMC leader said.
  • Despite involvement in criminal cases, he has played an important role in curbing child trafficking, earning recognition for his efforts in making Sarberia Agarhati gram panchayat a 'Child-Friendly Gram Panchayat' in 2019, according to the news agency.
  • In the aftermath of the violent clashes between BJP and TMC workers in Sandeshkhali post-Lok Sabha elections in June 2019, resulting in deaths on both sides, Sheikh found himself implicated in a murder FIR filed in connection with the incident.

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