Updated February 29th, 2024 at 11:45 IST

Mamata's Scripted Move In Shahjahan's Arrest Raises Many Questions

Despite Sheikh's arrest, the way the Mamata government allowed him to evade the arrest until now has led many to question the authenticity of their intention.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Sheikh Shahjahan was today arrested on charges of torture, sexual harassment, and land grabbing in Bengal's Sandeshkhali. | Image:Republic Digital
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New Delhi: After 55 days of relentless coverage of the Sandeshkhali uprising by Republic, Mamata Banerjee's cops have managed to stage the arrest of TMC mafia don Shahjahan Sheikh. Sheikh was held from the fish farming area in Minakhan, where he was allegedly hiding. The Calcutta High Court Chief Justice had also reprimanded the Mamata government for failing to arrest the absconding TMC leader three days back. "There is no reason to not arrest him. Public notice shall be given in this case. There is no stay order in Sandeshkhali cases. There is no reason to not arrest him," Calcutta HC Justice had said on February 26. Despite Sheikh's arrest, the way the Mamata government allowed him to evade the arrest until now has led many to question the authenticity of their intentions and their commitment to delivering justice.   

For the unversed, Sandeshkhali has turned into an uprising with women coming to the streets alleging systemic sexual exploitation and land grabs against Shahjahan Sheikh and his aides. They alleged that women were taken to the Trinamool party office, confined there night after night, and released only after the Trinamool members were "satisfied". 

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How Mamata Cops Choreographed Sheikh's Arrest 

Sheikh, accused of alleged sexual atrocities on women and land grabbing in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali, was arrested from a house at Minakhah in North 24 Parganas district where he was hiding in a late-night operation. Soon after his arrest, TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh defended the government's delayed action, saying, "Due to a legal tangle, he couldn't be arrested initially. However, after the court clarified that there was no stay on his arrest, the West Bengal Police did its job. The opposition had earlier exploited the embargo on his arrest," TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said. 

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Meanwhile, addressing a press conference, South Bengal ADG Supratim Sarkar said that the investigation would take time as there were many cases against him and most of them happened around two years back. He made the remarks when being asked about sexual assault complaints against the TMC don. 

On complaints under Section 354, the ADG said, "In this case, the complaint did not pertain to 354. Many cases after February 7,8,9, 9 came up then, pertain to incidents that happened 2,3 years back. So investigating them, gathering evidence takes time," Supratim Sarkar said.

No Remorse on Shahjahan's Face

The lack of remorse and confident attitude of the mafia don as he walked into the Basirhat Court could indicate his unrepentant and arrogant conduct regarding his actions. 

 The court has sent Shajahan Sheikh to 10 days of police custody. 

Was Shahjahan Hiding in Safe Custody of West Bengal Police? 

While the TMC has hailed Shahjahan's arrest, the BJP dubbed the arrest as scripted and claimed he was in the safe custody of West Bengal Police. "It was the TMC and the state police which were shielding the culprits. He has been arrested as part of a well-scripted story. The state administration was forced to arrest him because of continuous agitation by the state BJP unit," BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar said.

Echoing similar sentiments, Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari said, "The Scoundrel of Sandeshkhali - Seikh Shahjahan is in the safe custody of Mamata Police since 12 am last night. He was taken away from the Bermajur - II Gram Panchayat area, after he managed to negotiate a deal with the Mamata Police, through influential mediators, that he would be taken care of properly while in Police and Judicial Custody. He will be extended 5-star facilities during his time behind the bars and will have access to a mobile phone, through which he will be able to lead the Tolamool Party virtually. Even a bed in the Woodburn Ward will be kept ready and vacant for him if he chooses to spend some time there."  

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On the arrest of TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan, BJP's national spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla asserted that Shahjahan had been arrested only as a cosmetic measure.  "What is the TMC govt and Police gloating about…Shahjahan's arrest is nothing but eyewash. It only happened when the BJP took up the issue of Sandeshkhali, was on the streets and even Courts were forced and constrained to come down heavily on the TMC govt and on the action of Police. That is when Shahjahan, who was on state protection has now been shown as arrested...TMC knew where he was and gave him protection. In the Assembly Mamata Banerjee defended him, outside Abhishek Banerjee defended him..."  

BJP's Amit Malviya also hit out at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after Shahjahan's arrest saying that the state government had been left with no option but to arrest him. Naming TMC leaders for similar cases, Malviya alleged that they 'run a similar reign of terror because they deliver votes to Mamata Banerjee'. "After defending Shahjahan Sheikh on the floor of West Bengal Assembly, a red-faced Mamata Banerjee, left with no option, finally allowed WB Police to arrest the TMC leader, accused of sexual violence, murder, land grab and assault on government officials in #Sandeshkhali," Malviya said in a post on X.

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How Mamata Shielded Mafia Don Shahjahan in Assembly

While speaking in the Assembly, Mamata had blamed the BJP and RSS for stoking turmoil on the island and despite Sheikh Shahjahan facing ED summons for almost a month in connection with an alleged ration allotment scam, the TMC supremo shielded her party leader. She vehemently argued that the Centre used the Enforcement Directorate (ED) team against him. “First, they entered the area and targeted Sheikh Shahjahan through ED and then they started the trouble thereby getting people in. There is an RSS base in Sandeshkhali. There were riots earlier too.”

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Published February 29th, 2024 at 10:28 IST