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Bengal: TMC leader Shibaprasad Hazra accused in Sandeshkhali land grab, sexual abuse case arrested

Local TMC leader Shibaprasad Hazra, who has been named in police complaints along with party colleagues and other two prime accused Shajahan Sheikh and Uttam Sardar, was nabbed from a hideout in Sandeshkhali.
Last Updated : 17 February 2024, 15:10 IST
Last Updated : 17 February 2024, 15:10 IST

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Kolkata: One of the prime accused in the case of alleged land grab and sexual harassment of women in Sandeshkhali in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district was arrested on Saturday, police said.

Local TMC leader Shibaprasad Hazra, who has been named in police complaints along with party colleagues and other two prime accused Shajahan Sheikh and Uttam Sardar, was nabbed from a hideout in Sandeshkhali.

He will be produced before a local court on Sunday.

"We have arrested Shibaprasad Hazra from Sandeshkhali this evening. He will be produced before the court tomorrow," an officer of Nazat Police Station told PTI.

Earlier, police have also arrested Uttam Sardar but Shajahan Sheikh remains absconding.

With the fresh arrest, two of the three prime accused have been nabbed. A total of 18 people have been arrested in the case so far.

Meanwhile, the police added IPC sections 376D (gangrape) and 307 (attempt to murder) in the case after a survivor recorded her statement under Section 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure before a magistrate, a source said.

Talking to reporters, Director General of Police (DGP) Rajeev Kumar said that the woman had not made any similar complaint when police went to the area to learn about women's allegations.

"She did not give any statement before us. She gave it before a magistrate. I am not saying whether it is true or false... How can we ignore the statement she has made? Primarily, when a complainant comes to us and tells us something we assume it to be true. The case has been registered under relevant sections and necessary action will be taken," he added.

"The woman, who had not made any allegation (of gangrape) before us... that is on record... but we have come to know that she has made a statement before a magistrate. All the perpetrators will be brought to the book," the officer said.

He said that the police would hear out every individual and strict action will be taken against the culprits.

"We are committed to maintaining peace and order. There were a couple of new instances of allegations, especially tortures of women and land grabbing. We are committed to addressing each of them. Before February 6, however, we did not get any complaints of this nature. We are talking to everyone.

"We will talk to each one of them. There are four islands... We have a sufficient presence there. We have formed a SIT of 10 women officers who are talking to every woman there. We are committed to addressing their concerns," Kumar said.

"We will take strongest possible action against anyone against whom there is evidence. We cannot take action based on hearsay. We are trying to find out the truth," he said.

The DGP also said that no other woman in Sandeshkhali has made any similar complaint.

"We have recorded this testimony. We have talked to so many women but did not get any such complaint. It will be collectively wrong for all of us if we brush this kind of incident under the carpet," he said, adding, "In this age of the internet, you cannot hide such allegation."

The DGP said police would start reviewing the situation in the area in the next couple of days before deciding on removing the prohibitory orders implemented there..

"We will be reviewing area-wise... there are areas where (Section) 144 is not required... in a day or two, we will remove the prohibitory orders so that normalcy returns," he said.

Sandeshkhali grabbed attention after a mob attack on Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials on January 5. The officials went there to search the premises of Shajahan Sheikh in connection with an alleged ration distribution scam.

The protesting women in Sandeshkhali alleged that Shajahan and his "gang" including Hazra and Sardar captured swathes of land by force, besides sexually harassing them.

Shajahan's supporters also took to the streets, further adding to the tension following which prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC were clamped in 19 pockets across seven villages in Sandeshkhali block-II.

The police officer also said that for the alleged land grab issue, a team from the state land department would hold camps and start talking to the locals to understand the degree of the allegation.

"On the land grab issue, there will be a few teams from the land department visiting places, organise camps and accepting complaints," Kumar said.

On whether actions would be taken against erring police officers, Kumar said, "Yes. Why not? There is no denying that incidents have happened and we had to put in a lot of resources. It means there was something wrong. We are trying to address that."

Responding to a query on why the police have not been able to arrest Shajahan Sheikh to date, the IPS officer said, "The Enforcement Directorate (ED) have registered a case against him. Have they arrested him?".

Earlier, SP Basirhat Police District HM Rehman said that he would look into the allegation of a team of the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, which visited Sandeshkhali earlier in the day, that miscreants snatched a toddler from his mother and threw him on the ground in front of the police.

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Published 17 February 2024, 15:10 IST

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