Foreign-Made Guns Found In CBI Raid In Bengal's Sandeshkhali

The Calcutta High Court this month directed the CBI to take over the investigation into the sexual assault allegations from Bengal's Sandeshkhali.


Foreign-made weapons and ammunition have been recovered after the Central Bureau of Investigation raided locations in Bengal's Sandeshkhali in a case related to violence against Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials.

The raids come a day after the CBI - tasked with probing allegations of extortion, land grab, and sexual assault against suspended Trinamool leader Sheikh Shahjahan and his associates - carried out raids on hideouts linked to those who attacked the Enforcement Directorate team on January 5.

The Bengal government has not yet responded to the seizure.

That attack - believed to have been carried out by supporters of Shahjahan, on the run immediately after for nearly two months before his arrest - led to an avalanche of complaints against him, and triggered a ferocious political war between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's government and the opposition, which included the INDIA bloc of which the Trinamool is, nominally, a member.

As part of its investigation, the CBI this month opened confidential phone lines and e-mail addresses to encourage Sandeshkhali survivors to come forward and file complaints. Officials said the agency got 50 complaints on Day 1, with many about alleged land grab by politically influential persons.

READ | CBI Gets 50 Email Complaints In Sandeshkhali Case On First Day

This had been ordered by the Calcutta High Court when it handed the case to the agency.

READ | Calcutta High Court Orders CBI Probe Into Sandeshkhali Allegations

The court passed its order while hearing petitions asking for external agencies to investigate the many disturbing allegations. The state government received a stern reprimand; Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam said, "Even if one affidavit is correct... if one per cent is true... it is absolutely shameful."

READ | "Even If 1% True, 100% Shameful": Court Raps Bengal On Sandeshkhali

The Sandeshkhali row became a major flashpoint ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election, which began last Friday. Today is the second of seven phases of polling; Bengal will vote in each phase.

Three seats - Alipurduars, Cooch Behar, and Jalpaigiri in North Bengal, all of which were won by the BJP last time - voted in the first phase. Another three - Balurghat, Darjeeling, and Raiganj, again all won by the BJP in the last election - are voting in this phase.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been leading the BJP's charge in Bengal - a state in which the saffron party has made significant gains over the past five years as it looks to dislodge the Trinamool and Ms Banerjee. Campaigning for the party's Raiganj candidate this week, he alleged, "In Sandeshkhali, Mamata Banerjee allowed women to be tortured... so her vote bank is not affected."

READ | "Vote For BJP, Mamata's Goons Will Be Hung Upside Down": Amit Shah

The BJP has accused Ms Banerjee of shielding Sheikh Shahjahan, and has moved to field one of the women who have alleged sexual assault - Rekha Patra - from the Basirhat seat, which includes the island of Sandeshkhali. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Ms Patra on the telephone last month and labelled her "Shakti Swaroopa". "He has blessed us... like Lord Ram..." she told NDTV.

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