"Shahjahan Was With Bengal Cops": Probe Agency After Sandeshkhali Strongman's Arrest

On the run for 55 days, Shahjahan is at the centre of serious allegations levelled by residents of Sandeshkhali

'Shahjahan Was With Bengal Cops': Probe Agency After Sandeshkhali Strongman's Arrest

Sheikh Shahjahan was on the run for 55 days after a mob attacked a team of ED officials

New Delhi:

Clad in a white shirt, white trousers and a grey jacket, Sandeshkhali strongman Sheikh Shahjahan reached a court in West Bengal this morning, hours after he was arrested in connection with a mob attack on a team of Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials last month. Followed by policemen, he strode into the court, his body language defiant as he wagged his fingers at media persons shouting out questions to him.

On the run for 55 days, Shahjahan is at the centre of serious allegations levelled by residents of Sandeshkhali, an island in Bengal's North 24 Parganas district. The Trinamool strongman and his aides have been accused of land grab, extortion and intimidation. Allegations of sexual harassment have also come up.

Bengal police, which arrested Shahjahan yesterday, has said a Calcutta High Court order had tied their hands. The court had subsequently clarified that it has not stopped the state police or the ED or CBI from arresting him.

In his interaction with the media, senior Bengal police officer Supratim Sarkar questioned why the central agency did not arrest Shahjahan.

Sources from the ED have hit back, alleging that the pace of the strongman's arrest shows that Shahjahan was with them.

"The High Court gives a clarification and Shahjahan is instantly arrested. This proves that he was with them. The court had paused action in one case. But why was Sheikh Shahjahan not arrested despite being named in three murder cases. He also faced a non-bailable warrant in connection with an attack on power department officials," an ED officer said. "Why was he not arrested despite allegations of sexual harassment and land grab?"

An ED team was attacked by a huge mob on January 5 when it went to raid Shahjahan's house in connection with a case of irregularities in ration distribution.

"We had information that there was a huge cache of arms and cash worth crores at his home. That's why the mob attack was engineered and Shahjahan was helped to flee. The role of Bengal police and government in hiding away the arms, cash and Shahjahan's phones must be investigated," the official said.

The ED official said custodial interrogation of the strongman was required to get to the bottom of the alleged ration distribution scam and allegations of land grab. "We are watching the actions of Bengal police."

Drawing fire over the allegations against Shahjahan and his aides, the ruling Trinamool Congress had said that a high court order was impeding the state police's crackdown against the strongman.

"If the High Court ties the hands of state administration (then) what can be done? After the January 5 incident - when it was claimed ED officers were attacked - the central agency filed a complaint and the High Court ordered the constitution of a SIT with state police and central agencies," Trinamool MP and general secretary Abhishek Banerjee said on Sunday.

"Around 10-12 days later, ED appealed for stay in the High Court. The plea was accepted. This means they did not want any investigation, arrest, summons, or interrogation," he added. The Trinamool leader, who is the nephew of party chief and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, had insisted that the state government was not shielding the strongman. He had pointed to the arrests of Shahjahan's aides Uttam Sardar and Shibu Hazra.

The court later clarified that it had not barred the state police from arresting the strongman. "We clarify there is no stay on arrest in any proceeding. There is only a first information report and he (Shahjahan) has been named as an accused. He is absconding. Obviously he needs to be arrested," the court had said.