Sheikh Shahjahan, his men tortured tribals, took wages: Sandeshkhali probe team | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Sheikh Shahjahan, his associates tortured tribals, took wages: Sandeshkhali probe team

Feb 24, 2024 06:23 PM IST

Sandeshkhali, an island in North 24 Parganas, has been on the boil since February 8.

Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan and his associates tortured tribals for voting against the party in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali and forcibly took MNREGA wages from them, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) has learned, reported PTI.

TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh is on the run following the attack on ED officials in Sandeshkhali. (File)
TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh is on the run following the attack on ED officials in Sandeshkhali. (File)

Complainants told the commission that the West Bengal Police allegedly "protected" Shahjahan and his accomplices.

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Vice-Chairperson Ananta Nayak, who led the three-member NCST team, said that the panel has received more than 50 complaints of sexual harassment of tribal women and land grabs by Shahjahan and his associates.

"The NCST team learned that Shahjahan would instruct poor tribal people to give him their MNREGA earnings. And in case they had already exhausted it, he would ask them to borrow money from lenders and give it to him," Nayak was quoted as saying by PTI. He added he has not seen anything "like this across the country".

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Nayak said that the complainants, the majority of whom are Hindus, told the probe team that the accused and his associates tortured people who voted for other parties in elections.

Sandeshkhali, an island in North 24 Parganas, has been on the boil since February 8. Residents, mostly women, have hit the streets there demanding the arrest of Shahjahan accusing him of grabbing their lands and turning them into fish farms.

ED had earlier filed an ECIR in the alleged multi-crore ration distribution scam in West Bengal. ED had earlier filed an ECIR in the alleged multi-crore ration distribution scam in West Bengal. Former state minister Jyoti Priya Mallick was arrested in October last year in the scam. He is now in jail.

On Jan 5, when ED officials went to search Shahjahan’s house in connection with the alleged scam, they were attacked. The mastermind was allegedly the TMC leader, known to be close to Mallick. Later ED sent him three summons but there was no response.

Also Read | ‘No democracy in West Bengal’: BJP targets Mamata Banerjee over Sandeshkhali row

The NCST learned that Shahjahan and his associates would ask local women to come for meetings late at night, torturing the family members of those who did not comply with his demands, according to PTI.

"If the victim approached the police, they would not file an FIR or a complaint and instead ask the complainants to 'negotiate' with Shahjahan. The police backed the accused in this case," the NCST vice-chairperson said.

The complaints also told the NCST team that the accused would ask tribal families to hand over their land to him and release saltwater in the fields if they protested.

Nayak said Shahjahan allegedly grabbed land of more than a thousand tribal and non-tribal people in an area stretching more than 10 kilometres.

Fresh protests in Sandeshkhali

On Friday, fresh protests rocked Sandeshkhali village as local women demanded the arrest of absconding Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan.

They even set fire to a hut next to a fish farm allegedly owned by the strongman’s brother and thrashed another leader of the ruling party.

The developments came even as senior police officers visited the North 24 Paraganas village and director general of police Rajeev Kumar urged people not to take the law into their own hands.

Since February 7, the area erupted in violent protest with locals demanding action against the absconding TMC leader and his aides, accusing them of sexual abuse and landgrabbing.

So far, 18 people, including local TMC leaders Shibaprasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar, both close aides of Shahjahan, have been arrested in connection with complaints of sexual assault, land grabbing and inciting violence in Sandeshkhali.

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