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Calcutta HC orders CBI probe into alleged crimes against women in Bengal’s Sandeshkhali

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The Calcutta High Court declared on Wednesday that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) would delve into the allegations of extortion, land encroachment, and sexual assault that recently surfaced from Sandeshkhali in Bengal, just ahead of the Lok Sabha election. The court specified that the investigation by the central agency, which is already probing the January 5 assault on Enforcement Directorate officials that instigated this controversy, would be under its supervision.

Asserting the necessity for an impartial investigation considering the intricate nature of the matters in Sandeshkhali, the High Court emphasized the importance of proper support from the state to whichever agency is entrusted with the probe. This decision came in response to a series of petitions urging external agencies to look into the numerous troubling allegations from Sandeshkhali, a region engulfed in uproar and contention following accusations against suspended Trinamool leader Sheikh Shahjahan.

A bench led by Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam chastised the Bengal government, delivering a stern reprimand and deeming the situation “absolutely shameful,” even if only a fraction of the allegations proved to be true. The controversy erupted in January when a mob of Shahjahan’s supporters assaulted an Enforcement Directorate team on their way to conduct raids on properties linked to him, resulting in injuries to several officers.

With Shahjahan evading authorities and allegations against him and his associates surfacing, the Trinamool faced criticism for seemingly protecting him, prompting intervention from the court to order his arrest. Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee’s remarks further fueled controversy, suggesting that the police were unable to act due to court restrictions.

As the Sandeshkhali issue gains prominence in the lead-up to the election, the BJP has capitalized on it, accusing the Trinamool of shielding Shahjahan. Additionally, the BJP has taken steps to nominate Rekha Patra, one of the women alleging sexual assault, as a candidate from the Basirhat constituency, which encompasses the Sandeshkhali island.

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