Sandeshkhali: Second Shahjahan aide arrested, DG blames ED for stopping earlier state police probe

TMC leader Shibaprasad 'Shibu' Hazra, said to be a close associate of absconding TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan, was arrested from the Najat police station area

Shahjahan Sheikh (photo: @abirghoshal/X)
Shahjahan Sheikh (photo: @abirghoshal/X)

NH Digital

Almost immediately after a police press conference on the latest updates from Sandeshkhali, local Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Shibaprasad 'Shibu' Hazra — said to be a close associate of absconding TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan — was arrested from the Najat police station area on Saturday.

The development comes amid news that Sumit Kumar, DIG (deputy inspector-general), Barasat Range, which has jurisdiction over Sandeshkhali, has been replaced by Bhaskar Mukherjee, while Supratim Sarkar has taken over as ADG (additional director-general) & IGP (inspector-general of police), South Bengal.

Hazra has also been on the run ever since tensions resurfaced in Sandeshkhali earlier this month regarding allegations of land grabbing and sexual harrassment of women by Shahjahan and his associates.

The police have recently added gang rape and attempted murder to the list of cases against the absconding TMC leaders in Sandeshkhali — a small village in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal — naming suspended TMC worker Uttam Sardar (already in police custody) and Hazra as the accused. A case of attempted murder has also been filed.

Basirhat police district superintendent Hossain Mehdi Rahman told Anandabazar, "Shibaprasad was arrested from Najat police station area. He will be produced in court tomorrow (Sunday).”

Sandeshkhali-II TMC block president Hazra has not been seen in the area since the ED (Enforcement Directorate) raided Shahjahan's home on 5 January, prompting retaliation by his supporters in which a few ED officials were assaulted and injured.

On 7 February, Sandeshkhali was back in the headlines when several women residents levelled allegations of sexual abuse against the TMC leaders and vandalised property belonging to Sardar, a member of the Zilla Parishad and the then regional TMC president. The next day, a mob also vandalised a farmhouse and poultry farm belonging to Hazra and set them on fire.

Local women claimed that Hazra and Sardar would take them to different places on the pretext of attending TMC meetings late at night. Sometimes, the women had to go to Hazra's farmhouse.

According to police, a case of gang rape was registered against the absconding Hazra on Saturday, based on a woman resident's confidential statement.

Sardar was produced in Basirhat sub-divisional court on Saturday and remanded to 10-day police custody. With the news of Hazra's arrest, the only member of the trifecta left to arrest is Shahjahan himself.

But how is Shahjahan, the principal accused in the attack on the ED in Sandeshkhali, still 'absconding'? This has been a constant question from the opposition in the state, a month-and-a-half after the incident.

At the press conference, state police DG (director-general) placed the blame for Shahjahan's continued absence on ED, and said the police administration was considering lifting section 144 in the area.

The DG also questioned why the ED, which was investigating Shahjahan, was not arresting him and said when the state police began an investigation against the accused, the ED stopped it.

"We received no complaints from Sandeshkhali before 8 February. Since then, all complaints received have been investigated. Women of Sandeshkhali can approach the police without fear and express their views," Kumar said.

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