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Bengal Government Moves SC against CBI Probe into Sandeshkhali Incident

Bengal Government Moves SC against CBI Probe into Sandeshkhali Incident

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NEW DELHI, Apr 26: Within hours after the Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday conducted raids on multiple locations in connection with the January 5 attack on some officials of Enforcement Directorate in Sandeshkhali, the West Bengal government approached the Supreme Court against a Calcutta High Court ordering CBI investigation into the allegations of extortion, land grab and sexual assault on women of Sandeshkhali by the suspended Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan and his associates.

The CBI on Friday conducted a raid on hideouts linked to suspects in that case. The sources claimed that the federal agency recovered foreign-made weapons and ammunition, following which teams of the National Security Guard, who are elite commandos, were deployed at the spot.

The Sandeshkhali row broke after a mob of Shahjahan’s supporters allegedly attacked an ED team en route to conduct searches related to a separate case. In the aftermath of that attack, in which ED officials were hurt – the Trinamool strongman went on the run and stayed hidden for nearly two months.

The attack on the ED team triggered a furious political row – particularly since the general election, then, was just weeks away – with the BJP and even the Congress (on paper a Trinamool ally) ripping into Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s government for delays in arresting Sheikh Shahjahan.

Shahjahan, who was earlier being investigated by the ED for money laundering in the ration and land scams that have rocked Bengal politics – was eventually arrested on February 29, 2004. The entire issue has snowballed into a major flashpoint before the election.

The Trinamool was accused by the BJP of shielding Shahjahan, who was arrested only after the High Court’s explicit direction; this was after contentious comments by Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee, who claimed the state could not arrest Shahjahan because the court had “tied (police’s) hands.”

The BJP has also fielded one of the alleged victim of sexual assault by Shahjahan – Rekha Patra – as a candidate from the Basirhat seat, which includes Sandeshkhali. The Trinamool hit back by pointing to ex-wrestling body chief Brij Bhushan Singh, a sitting BJP MP accused of sexual assault by women wrestlers.

Amidst all this, earlier this month the Bengal government received a stern reprimand from the state’s High Court Thursday as it heard affidavits seeking probes into the Sandeshkhali allegations. A bench led by Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam said the state could not shirk accountability in the event the allegations are found to be true.

(Manas Dasgupta)


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