A team of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) was attacked in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district on January 5 morning when they went to carry out raids in connection with an alleged ration distribution scam. Followers of a Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader in the Sandeshkhali area vandalised vehicles and blocked roads. West Bengal BJP State President Sukanta Majumdar wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, voicing alarm over the incident and demanding an NIA probe.
The ED team was in the process of raiding the houses of former Bongaon Municipality chairman Shankar Adhya and local TMC leader Sheikh Shahjahan in connection with the ration ‘scam’ case when a group of unidentified persons pelted their vehicles with stones, smashing the window panes.
A local TMC strongman, Sheikh Shahjahan, is the Fisheries and Animal Resources Officer of North 24 Parganas Zilla Parishad as well as the party’s block president of Sandeshkhali 1. According to sources, two officials of the agency sustained injuries in the incident.
A member of the raiding ED team told the media, “Eight people came to the spot. They attacked three of us and also stoned our vehicles.”
Significantly, TMC old-timer and former Food and Civil Supplies minister Jyotipriya Mullick has already been arrested in connection with the alleged ration scam.
The attack on the ED team drew outrage from the BJP, which gunned for the ruling TMC over the ‘collapse’ of law and order under the leadership of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The party’s State president, Sukanta Majumdar, wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, voicing alarm over the incident and demanding an NIA probe.
“I am writing to bring to your attention a distressing incident that occurred today, on January 5 2024, in Sandeshkhali, North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. An Enforcement Directorate (ED) team conducting a raid faced a violent attack by a group of 100-200 villagers in the village of TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh,” Sukanta Majumdar wrote to Amit Shah. He urged the Home Minister to personally intervene in instituting an NIA probe into the incident.
“Given the severity and nature of this attack, I earnestly request your immediate intervention in the NIA (National Investigation Agency) investigation into this incident. Such an investigation is crucial to ensure the safety of law enforcement personnel carrying out their duties and to uphold the rule of law in our country,” Sukanta Majumdar added. This was the first such incident of ED officials, probing ongoing cases in the State, being targeted.
Coming down heavily on the Mamata Government, a furious Bengal Governor CV Ananda Bose said he would explore ‘constitutional options’ to put an end to the vicious cycle of violence in the State.
Governor Bose also summoned the Home Secretary and the Director General of Police (DGP) to Raj Bhavan in the aftermath of the attack on the ED probe team.
Terming the attack as ‘ghastly’, the Governor said, “It was a ghastly incident. It was alarming and deplorable. It is the duty of a civilised Government to stop barbarism and vandalism in a democracy. If a Government fails in (discharging) its basic duty, then the Constitution of India will take its course. I reserve all my constitutional options for appropriate action. This pre-election violence should find an early end, and let this be the beginning of that end.” Several State BJP leaders, too, condemned the incident while lashing out at the TMC regime.
BJP MP Jagannath Sarkar said democracy and the rule of law hold no meaning in West Bengal, and the prevailing State of affairs makes for a fit case for the imposition of President’s Rule in the State.
“Democracy has fallen apart in Bengal, which is why an ED team was attacked with such impunity. Forces working against the country seem to be nesting in Bengal and gaining in strength. Illegal firearms and explosives are recovered every day, but the Government remains unmoved. I believe that the time has come to remove this Government democratically and, till that happens, President’s Rule should be imposed on the State. Once that is done and the rule of law is restored, things will automatically improve and no one will dare attack central agencies here,” Sarkar told ANI.
BJP MP from Darjeeling, Raju Bista, called it an attack on the ‘Constitution of India’. “This wasn’t just an attack on an independent agency but on the Constitution of India. It has yet again drawn the spotlight on the prevailing law and order situation in West Bengal. The only way to save the State is to impose President’s Rule,” Bista said.
BJP leader P Muralidhar Rao said a “systematic, planned and orchestrated campaign” was afoot in the State against Government institutions.
“There is an illustration of a systematic, planned and orchestrated campaign against the Government institutions, be it the ED, CBI or IT.
Attack on Government agencies and institutions cannot and should not be tolerated in a democracy. Such parties (like TMC) cannot be called responsible. The BJP condemns this attack,” he said. However, the TMC MP Santanu Sen alleged that the officials of the federal agency ‘provoked’ locals, which led to a violent reaction from them.
“The officers of the central investigating agency, surrounded by central forces, provoked residents, who responded,” Santanu Sen said.
He claimed further that people across the country were ‘frustrated’ and fed up with the targeting of Opposition leaders by central agencies, adding that it was ‘monitored from Delhi’.
“The reality that stares at us is that the people are frustrated and fed up watching this deep-rooted conspiracy engineered and monitored from Delhi daily unravel itself in Bengal and elsewhere. The person (Bengal LoP Suvendu Adhikari) who is raising a storm on social media over this incident, is topping the charts on corruption. He was caught on camera accepting a bribe. His family members, too, are accused of corruption but no action has been taken against them as they belong to the BJP,” Santanu Sen claimed.
TMC leader and spokesman Kunal Ghosh, too, said that the attack on ED officials was the result of ‘provocation’.
State minister Shashi Panja said the BJP was trying to “influence central agencies” to secure its larger political goals.
“The BJP has time and again tried to make the central investigating agencies function as per their dictates. If they truly want to arrest persons accused of corruption, they should go after Suvendu Adhikari first. He was seen taking wads of cash on camera. However, the moment he joined the BJP, the agencies went cold on him. What happened today was the fallout of local BJP workers provoking TMC supporters. They (BJP) fear the INDIA alliance and Mamata Banerjee,” Panja said.
However, Congress, a partner of the TMC in the INDIA bloc, came down heavily on the ruling party, with its state chief and MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury saying that there was no law and order in Bengal.
Speaking to media persons, Chowdhury said he wouldn’t be surprised if a central official was ‘murdered’ in the State someday.
“After this brazen attack on ED officials by goons prospering under the patronage of the ruling TMC, it is clear that there is no law and order in Bengal. Today, they were injured. Tomorrow, they could even be murdered. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened,” the Congress leader said.
(with inputs from ANI)