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Kolkata: Absconding TMC leader Shajahan Sheikh, accused of alleged sexual atrocities and land grabbing in West Bengal's Sandeshkhali, was arrested on Thursday morning after being on the run for 55 days, police said.

He was arrested from a house in Minakhan, around 30 km away from the island of Sandeshkhali on the outskirts of Sunderbans, in North 24 Parganas district, they said.

Sheikh was hiding in the house along with a few associates, they added.

After the arrest, he was taken to the Basirhat court, police said.

He is at present in the court lockup, a police officer told PTI, adding that he will be produced before a judge later in the day.

Sheikh was taken into custody within 24 hours of the Calcutta High Court stating that the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) or the West Bengal Police can arrest him.

Governor CV Ananda Bose, who had on Monday night given a 72-hour "deadline" to the state government for Sheikh's arrest, said, "There is always light at the end of the tunnel. I welcome it."

The ruling Trinamool Congress said the arrest was possible as the court cleared the decks, while the BJP dubbed it as scripted.

"Due to a legal tangle, he couldn't be arrested initially. However, after the court clarified that there was no stay on his arrest, the West Bengal Police did its job. The opposition had earlier exploited the embargo on his arrest," TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh told.

"We had said he would be arrested in seven days as we were confident of the ability of the state police," he said.

The opposition BJP claimed the state police were forced to arrest Sheikh because of its agitations.

"It was the TMC and the state police which were shielding the culprit. He has been arrested now as a part of a well-scripted story. The state administration was forced



to arrest him because of the continuous agitation led by us," BJP state president Sukanta Majumadar said.

Sheikh was traced with the help of his mobile phone's tower location, a police officer said.

"Shiekh was changing his location from time to time. He was spotted with the help of his mobile phone's tower location," he said.

Huge police deployment was made at the Basirhat court, around 65 km from Kolkata, to maintain the law and order situation, police said.

Additional forces were also deployed in parts of Sandeshkhali, which Sheikh is accused of turning into his fiefdom over the last decade, to prevent any further flare-up of the situation.

On Wednesday, a division bench presided by Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam directed that it will be "open to the CBI or the ED also to arrest" the absconding Sheikh, noting that he has been on the run for a substantial period.

The high court had on Monday directed the state police to arrest him.

Police said that over 100 complaints were registered against Sheikh over the last few weeks, which saw violent protests led by women demanding his arrest.

He has been booked under IPC sections 376D (gang rape) and 307 (attempt to murder), they said.

Sheikh's close aides Shibaprasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar were earlier arrested on similar charges.

His another associate, Ajit Maiti, was held in connection with the allegations of land grabbing.

Police said most of the complainants claimed that Shajahan forcibly took over land from the people, and tortured the women of the area.

Sheikh was at large since an ED team that went to raid his house in connection with the alleged ration scam was attacked by a mob of around 1,000 people on January 5.





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