Calcutta High Court Orders CBI Probe Into Sandeshkhali Rape, Land Grab Allegations

The women of Sandeshkhali have claimed land grab and sexual assault by Sheikh Shahjahan (File).


The CBI will investigate allegations of extortion, land grab, and sexual assault that surfaced from Bengal’s Sandeshkhali ahead of the Lok Sabha election, the Calcutta High Court said Wednesday.

The probe by the central agency – which is also investigating the January 5 attack on Enforcement Directorate officials that triggered this controversy – will be monitored by the court, it said.

“Considering the complexity of matters in Sandeshkhali, there is no doubt an impartial investigation should be done. We are of the opinion the State has to give proper support to (whichever) agency is (placed) in charge…” the High Court, which last week rapped the ruling Trinamool Congress, said.

The court last week heard a clutch of petitions asking for external agencies to investigate the many disturbing allegations from the island of Sandeshkhali, which has been shrouded in fury and controversy after accusations against suspended Trinamool leader Sheikh Shahjahan.

The Bengal government received a stern reprimand by a bench led by Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam, who said, “Even if one affidavit is correct… if one per cent is true… it is absolutely shameful.”

READ | “If 1% True, 100% Shameful”: Court Raps Bengal On Sandeshkhali

The row broke in January after a mob of Shahjahan’s supporters attacked an Enforcement Directorate team en route to raid premises linked to him. Several officers were injured.

Shahjahan went on the run almost immediately and as the allegations against him and his aides broke. The Trinamool then came under heavy fire after it was seen as shielding their man, who remained at large for nearly two months till the court’s direct order to the police to arrest him.

This was after contentious comments by Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee, who claimed the state was unable to arrest the accused Sheikh Shahkhana because the court had “tied (police’s) hands”.

READ | Arrest Trinamool Strongman Sheikh Shahjahan: Calcutta High Court

Ahead of the election Sandeshkhali has become the opposition BJP’s focal point of attack of the Trinamool. The ruling party has also had to field barbs from the Congress, which is, on paper, an ally,

The BJP has accused Ms Banerjee of shielding Sheikh Shahjahan, and has moved to field one of the women who have alleged sexual assault – Rekha Patra – from the Basirhat seat, which includes the island of Sandeshkhali. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Ms Patra on the telephone last month and labelled her “Shakti Swaroopa”. “He has blessed us… like Lord Ram…” she told NDTV.

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