Fugitive Indian politician arrested in West Bengal

Sheikh Shahjahan, a leader in the Trinamool Congress party, had been on the run since January 5

Police arrested Sheikh Shahjahan, a politician from the ruling Trinamool Congress party in West Bengal state, after a manhunt lasting almost two months. Getty Images
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Indian police have arrested a fugitive politician accused of land grabs and sexual harassment after a manhunt lasting nearly two months.

Sheikh Shahjahan, a leader in the Trinamool Congress party that rules the eastern state of West Bengal, has been on the run since January 5 when Enforcement Directorate officers tried to raid his residence but were attacked by his supporters.

“We have arrested Sheikh Shahjahan, one of the prime accused in the attack on ED officials during a raid on January 5, 2024, [in the] Minakhan area yesterday night,” Supratim Sarkar, a senior police officer, said on Thursday.

He was sent to police custody for 10 days by a local court.

Mr Shahjahan, 45, and his two aides, Shiba Prasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar, are accused in a number of cases of land grabbing and sexual harassment of women in their hometown of Sandeshkhali in the state's North 24 Parganas district.

Mr Shahjahan was born into an impoverished family and worked as a driver in his early 20s. He often helped trekkers in the Sandeshkhali to earn extra money before he joined the Trinamool Congress in 2013, according to reports in local media.

Known for his oratory skills and impassioned speeches, he rose quickly in the party and was put in charge of fisheries in the district's development department.

He also played a key role in curbing child trafficking and helping the poor, earning him the image of a modern-day Robin Hood, the reports said.

But he is accused in several criminal cases, including the killing of three members of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in 2019.

He wields such an influence on the people in the region that the ED officials were attacked by a mob of nearly 1,000 people. He allegedly whipped up the mob for the attack from his home, using a phone.

Updated: February 29, 2024, 9:42 AM