Bengal Sandeshkhali violence: Section 144 imposed

Internet services were suspended on Saturday after protests turned violent in the Sandeshkhali area of North 24 Parganas district. Meanwhile, Section 144 has also been imposed to maintain law and order in the area.

Locals staged a massive protest on Friday, demanding the arrest of absconding Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shajahan and his associates. As the protests turned violent, a house was being vandalized and poultry farms were set on fire.

Carrying sticks and other objects, locals took out processions in different areas of the area as protests intensified on the third day of the agitation. In the afternoon, the house of Shajahan’s aide, Shibu Prasad Hazra was vandalised, police said. Also, three poultry farms in Zeliakhali belonging to Hazra were set ablaze, it is learned.

The protesters alleged that the farms were built on the land usurped from them and that they were forced to work on them.

Eight people were detained in connection with the protests, the police said. Meanwhile, Hazra’s supporters were accused of attacking the protesters on Friday.

The police resorted to lathi-charge to chase away the protesters.

Precarious situation

Superintendent of Police Hossain Mehedi Rahaman said forces were sent to the area to tackle the situation. A complaint was lodged by the villagers against Shajahan and his aides on Thursday, and it was being looked into, he added. Searches were on for them, the SP said.

Addressing a press conference, Additional Director-General (Law and Order) Manoj Verma said the situation was under control and urged people not to take the law into their hands. “Probe is underway into all complaints that have been lodged and action will be taken. At the same time, if someone takes up the law into their hands, the law will take its own course. The situation is at present under control,” he said.

Meanwhile, the locals started a sit-in outside the Sandeshkhali police station, stating that it would continue till Shajahan and his aides were arrested. Shajahan went missing last month after a team of the ED that went to raid his house in the alleged ration scam was attacked by a mob.

Locals alleged that Shajahan and his “gang” captured swathes of land by force, besides torturing people during their “reign”.

Meanwhile, Shajahan’s supporters also took to the streets, and the police said they were trying to prevent a clash.

Criticising the police and the TMC government over their alleged failure to maintain law and order situation in the area, state BJP president Sukanta Majumdar wrote a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah demanding his intervention in the matter

Last month, the Enforcement Directorate team was attacked while conducting searches at the sprawling residence of Sheikh Shahjahan at Sandeshkhali in connection with an alleged ration distribution scam. Since then the leader has been summoned twice by the agency but he hasn’t appeared even once. (X)

How it started

Locals staging a protest demanding the arrest of absconding Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shajahan and his associates turned violent in the Sandeshkhali area of North 24 Parganas district on Friday with a house being vandalised and poultry farms set on fire.

Carrying sticks and other objects, locals took out processions in different areas of the area as protests intensified on the third day of the agitation. In the afternoon, the house of Shajahan’s aide Shibu Prasad Hazra was vandalised, police said. Also, three poultry farms in Zeliakhali belonging to Hazra were set ablaze, it is learnt.

The protesters alleged that the farms were built on the land usurped from them and that they were forced to work on them.

Eight persons were detained in connection with the protests, the police said. Meanwhile, Hazra’s supporters were accused of attacking the protesters on Friday.

The police resorted to lathi-charge to chase away the protesters.

Superintendent of Police Hossain Mehedi Rahaman said forces were sent to the area to tackle the situation. A complaint was lodged by the villagers against Shajahan and his aides on Thursday, and it was being looked into, he added. Searches were on for them, the SP said.

Addressing a press conference, Additional Director-General (Law and Order) Manoj Verma said the situation was under control and urged people not to take the law into their hands. “Probe is underway into all complaints that have been lodged and action will be taken. At the same time, if someone takes up the law into their hands, the law will take its own course. The situation is at present under control,” he said.

Meanwhile, the locals started a sit-in outside the Sandeshkhali police station, stating that it would continue till Shajahan and his aides were arrested. Shajahan went missing last month after a team of the ED that went to raid his house in the alleged ration scam was attacked by a mob.

Locals alleged that Shajahan and his “gang” captured swathes of land by force, besides torturing people during their “reign”.

Meanwhile, Shajahan’s supporters also took to the streets, and the police said they were trying to prevent a clash.

Criticising the police and the TMC government over their alleged failure to maintain law and order situation in the area, state BJP president Sukanta Majumdar wrote a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah demanding his intervention in the matter.

“This is to bring to your immediate attention the alarming situation of lawlessness and violence prevailing in Bengal, particularly in Sandeshkhali, North 24 Parganas.

The recent attacks on local tribal communities by individuals such as Sheikh Shahjahan, Shibu Hazra, Uttam Sardar, and other TMC goons demand urgent action from the government to restore law and order in the area. Shahjahan, the primary accused in the mob attack on ED officials on January 5, has been terrorising the residents of Sandeshkhali with impunity. His reign of terror has instilled fear among local populace, leading to breakdown of peaceand order,” read the letter.

Reacting to the letter, TMC MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar said BJP is trying to divert the attention from the lawful demand for MNREGA dues.

(With PTI inputs)

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Harry Byrne

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