Sandeshkhali Violence: Kolkata High Court Raps State Police For Failing To Apprehend Main Accused Shahjahan Sheikh

Sandeshkhali Violence: Kolkata High Court Raps State Police For Failing To Apprehend Main Accused Shahjahan Sheikh

The Chief Justice also stated that Shahjahan remains at large, and it is not known whether he is under protection.

Rahul MUpdated: Tuesday, February 20, 2024, 01:39 PM IST
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TMC Leader Sheikh Shahjahan | File photo

Criticising the Mamata Banerjee government in strong words for the situation in Sandeshkhali, the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday asserted that local Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan "cannot evade responsibility" and the "state cannot condone" his actions.

Responding to BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari's plea to visit Sandeshkhali, Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam emphasised that the court has taken note of the allegations made by women on the island.

"We are aware of the complaints; the women in the area have highlighted issues, including instances of land grabbing. Shahjahan cannot remain at large. The state cannot endorse such behavior. In the suo motu case, we will demand his surrender here. He cannot flout the law," the Chief Justice stated, as reported by Live Law.

One individual can hold the entire population hostage: Chief Justice

"If one individual can hold the entire population hostage, the ruling regime should not lend him support. He is merely a representative of the public and is obligated to act in their best interests," he added.

The Chief Justice highlighted that preliminary evidence suggests Shahjahan has caused harm to the public. "He is evading authorities after allegedly committing crimes. It is unclear whether he is under protection but unable to be apprehended. This could imply that state law enforcement is unable to apprehend him, or he is beyond their jurisdiction," he remarked.

Questioning the rationale behind imposing prohibitory orders while Shahjahan remains at large, the court remarked, "You are only exacerbating tensions. You are needlessly harassing locals. Just like during Covid, people were experiencing depression due to confinement at home. Let people voice their concerns. Merely because people voice allegations, the accused does not automatically become guilty. Suppressing them will not resolve the issue."

Shahjahan has been evading arrest for a month since an Enforcement Directorate team, investigating a corruption case, was attacked by a mob near his residence in Sandeshkhali. In recent weeks, local residents have leveled accusations of land usurpation and extortion against Shahjahan and his associates. The BJP has also accused Trinamool leaders of sexually assaulting women in Sandeshkhali. Seventeen individuals, including Shahjahan's aides Uttam Sarkar and Shibu Hazra, have been arrested.

TMC blames BJP for unrest

The Trinamool Congress government has accused the BJP of instigating unrest in the region. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has alleged that BJP workers were brought to the island to incite violence. "The primary target was Sheikh, and when the ED arrived, they expelled everyone and fabricated a conflict between adivasis and minorities," she claimed. "This is not new. The RSS has a stronghold there. Riots occurred there 7-8 years ago. It is one of the most volatile riot-prone areas," Ms. Banerjee added.

The high court noted with concern that despite multiple cases against him and an assault on ED officials, the Bengal police has failed to apprehend Shahjahan. "It is quite astonishing that the individual at the heart of the problem remains at large to this day," the Chief Justice remarked.

HC allowed BJP leaders to visit Sandeshkhali

Notably, the Calcutta High Court has granted permission to Suvendu Adhikari and BJP MLA Shankar Ghosh to visit Sandeshkhali. However, they have been instructed to provide an undertaking that they will not take any action that could worsen the law and order situation. This permission was granted yesterday. However, this morning, police and riot control force personnel were observed erecting barricades to prevent the BJP leader and his supporters from proceeding at Dhamakhali. Additionally, the local administration imposed prohibitory orders in Sandeshkhali and adjacent areas, prohibiting public gatherings.

Adhikari, serving as the Leader of the Opposition in the Bengal Assembly, was halted at Dhamakhali before he and his supporters could board a ferry destined for the island. This marks his third attempt to visit Sandeshkhali following the eruption of allegations against Trinamool leaders, which sparked a political uproar.

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