Speaking to News18, locals in Sandeshkhali region in West Bengal said two close aides of TMC leader Sheikh Shajahan exploited them and their land, while the police did not pay heed to their complaints. Some said they had no option but to resort to protests
Sandeshkhali in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district, in the news for protests demanding the arrest of TMC leader Sheikh Shajahan, is essentially an island, one of the many in the Sunderbans region. To reach it, one has to cross a river.
And Sheikh Shajahan is known as the ‘betaj badshah’ (or brazen king) of Sandeshkhali. Enforcement Directorate (ED) officers who went to the area on January 5 to search his premises in connection an alleged ration distribution scam in the state were attacked and their belongings were snatched.
A section of the locals has been demanding the arrest of Shajahan and his aides, while another set fire to his associate Shiboprasad Hazra’s poultry farm and went on to vandalise the farmhouse of Uttam Sardar, another aide. The protests escalated with local women, armed with lathis, camping around the police station. Several locals allege Hazra and Sardar “tortured” them, snatched their land, made them work without pay.
To understand the situation on the ground, News18 travelled to Sandeshkhali. Before reaching the main island, one has to cross an area called Sorberia, where an entire market is named after Shajahan. News18 then reached Dhamakhali from where a ferry service can be taken to reach Sandeshkhali. That the area was not at peace was evident very soon as huge police presence could be seen at the ghat.
News18 then reached the village where Hazra’s poultry farm was set on fire. Here, Shiboprasad Hazra’s name is written on the walls next to the TMC election symbol, remnants of the recent Panchayat elections. His poultry farm was spread over a vast area. Nothing remains of it now, but police personnel have been posted here to prevent any more violence.