A slew of intriguing questions about the attack on ED team in Bengal

Several questions around the attack on a team of ED officials in West Bengal remain unanswered. Even a high court judge has lent his voice to claims that the mob may have come on boats from Bangladesh

An ED officer injured in the mob attack in
An ED officer injured in the mob attack in

Shalini Sahay

“Continuance of TMC Govt in West Bengal is a national security threat,” posted BJP IT Cell chief Amit Malviya after a team of ED officials were allegedly attacked in West Bengal when they reached a village to search the house of a block level leader of the Trinamool Congress on Friday.

Malviya did not lose any time in alleging that illegal migrants from Bangladesh had been involved in the attack, thus giving a leg up to the demand for a NRC in Bengal on the lines of Assam even as the union home ministry is said to be finalising the notification of rules under the Citizenship Amendment Act passed in 2019.

The "illegal migrant" angle was also raised by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay of the Calcutta High Court, who is not unknown to controversy. Justice Gangopadhyay unusually arrived at the hospital on Friday evening to enquire about the condition of the injured ED officials.

Earlier, in his courtroom, he had wondered why the governor had not yet reported the "total collapse of law and order in the state" and wondered allowed if the mob comprised Indians. “Could they have come on boats” he quipped.

In a video clip shared by BJP’s IT cell head Amit Malviya, a photographer with TV news channel ABP Ananda explains that he and his crew left home at 5 am on Friday to cover ED’s raid at Sandeshkhali in North 24 Pargana district. The district police superintendent, however, claimed, as reported in the media, that ED had not given any prior information to the police about the raid.

Indeed, the police was alerted, he claimed, by an email sent by the ED. What is not clear is who in the Enforcement Directorate sent the email, to whom, from where and indeed when. The ED team members were quoted as saying that police was nowhere to be seen and they had to run from the mob to save their lives.

The SP, however, claimed that police had rushed to the spot after receiving information and had rescued the officers, escorting them to safety. Police in fact had arranged for a boat to rescue the team members, he added.

There are also conflicting versions about the size of the mob. While BJP leaders and IT Cell claimed the mob numbered 800 to 1000 people, a report quoted a team member telling a news agency that eight to 10 people had manhandled them and forced them to retreat. While the IT cell circulated a video clip of a large mob, it was not clear where the clip was shot and when.

There were other contradictory points which have emerged. While in the clip shared by Malviya, the ABP Ananda photographer says that they had started filming by 7 am and that they were feeding the footage live; that people started collecting after watching the live feed on TV.

The photographer also claimed that people not only smashed his camera and rained blows and kicks on him but that he was also spat upon by them. “Even a man on a bike with a child on the pillion stopped to kick and spit on me…,” he claimed. The video clip of ABP Ananda posted by Malviya can be watched here:

Shahjahan Sheikh, Malviya posted on Friday, “…is no ordinary criminal. In 2019, he and his men, most of them illegal Rohingyas from Bangladesh, killed BJP workers Sukanta Mandal and Pradip Mandal… Their bodies were riddled with bullet, using sophisticated firearms, and chopped into several pieces. Shahjahan had then escaped across the border…”.

He also claimed that in a public speech on 1 January 2024, Sheikh had claimed that CBI and ED wouldn’t be able to ‘even touch his hair’.

Considering such notoriety, why did the Enforcement Directorate choose to go on the raid with minimal security with them is another piece of the puzzle that is yet to fall in place.

As the ED prepared to file a police complaint and seek police security on future raids, Trinamool Congress spokesperson Kunal Ghosh described the attack as unfortunate but justified it by saying the attack was the spontaneous reaction of the people. “ED, CBI are no longer seen in the state as central agencies. They are seen as proxies of the BJP,” he added.    

While Shahjahan Sheikh is absconding, another ED team did manage to arrest a Block level AITC leader Shankar Adhya, in connection with the ration scam, in which state food minister Jyoti Priya Mallick has already been arrested.

Central agencies like the CBI and ED are investigating several corruption cases in Bengal, some of them for over 10 years and thus raising doubts about the evidence they may have gathered.

The Sarada chit fund case, the Narada sting operation, irregular appointment of primary schoolteachers and the alleged PDS scam in the distribution of ration cards are some of them. Trinamool Congress alleges that these cases are being dragged on and daily raids are being conducted to malign the government and the party in the state.  

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