Herald Go

TMC leader and mastermind behind the violence that erupted in West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali, Sheikh Shahjahan was finally arrested after he ‘absconded’ for 55 days. He was on the run ever since he along with his accomplices attacked the ED squad on January 5.

Shahjahan has been accused in various serious cases of sexual assault, illegal land grabbing, murders, physical assault and robbery. The Mamata Banerjee government had to finally arrest him after it was pulled up by the Calcutta High Court and the deadline of 72 hours given by the Governor. 

How come this ‘bhai’ who was absconding for almost two months was found immediately after the Court instructed CBI and ED to take action? Was he out without any political protection? A simple driver who becomes the leader of brick labourers and slowly enters into the fisheries business. After capturing majority of the fisheries business in the locality, he dives into politics and jumps into TMC from CPIM. He becomes the bloc president of TMC, grabs common peoples’ land, sexually assaults women in the area and yet, becomes key leader of TMC in Basirhat constituency. West Bengal’s Advocate General Kishor Datta himself informed Calcutta High Court at the beginning of this week that there are 43 FIRs lodged against Sheikh in the past four years. 

Police have filed chargesheets in 42 cases against him while in some cases he has been termed ‘absconding’. Under whose protective umbrella was this allowed to go on and for what? A woman filed a complaint against Shahjahan and his two accomplices on February 16 regarding sexual assault and land grabbing which is when the collective drive against this criminal truly began. 

Unfortunately, there are many such thugs in all the political parties today, some of whom are MLAs, MPs or officials of the parties. So, the real issue here is the criminalisation of politics. Our ancestors who fought for the country’s independence 75 years ago dreamed of a bright future for this land. Sadly, that dream is being shattered and no one party is an exception to this. Those who have pending criminal cases against them can still contest elections because Indian laws do not restrict them from doing so. What is more shameful is that despite committing heinous crimes, many of these leaders are elected to the country's highest administrative systems such as Sansad and state assemblies. In short, the people we elect as lawmakers are law-breakers themselves but not a single political party feels the need not to give them candidacy. As per the current law in place, one cannot contest elections for the next six years after being imprisoned. However, one Ashwini Upadhye has filed a petition in the Supreme Court not to permit those accused in the grave crimes to ever contest elections in their life. When the top court asked the Central government to clarify their stance on the matter, the Union government immediately opposed the proposal. This proves that the only thing which matters to the political parties is the candidate’s ability to win regardless of the number of crimes he/she is involved in. The criminalisation of politics encompasses cabinet to municipal council and from executive committees to judiciary. As per the survey by Association for Democratic Reforms, the number of such candidates in 2009 was 15% which increased to 17% during 2014 elections. The number continued with its upward trajectory with 19% during the general elections of 2019. 13% of candidates who contested 2019 Lok Sabha polls had serious allegations of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, rape and other crimes against them. 

The overall rise of MPs with criminal backgrounds has increased by 109% over the past 10 years. A convenient excuse by political parties in such matters is that the accused is innocent until proven guilty in the court of law. This proves how ineffective our judicial system truly is. In fact, it is always the general public who are responsible for electing a criminal to the position of power. 

Once such a candidate is elected to the House, he finds his ways to abuse the power through money and intimidation. People, too, question the ability of honest candidates and vote the same criminals to power over and over again. The cycle of power through money and money through power continues. The general public has accepted the bitter truth of political parties allotting candidacy to the ones who keep the will of winning by hook or by crook. The least one can expect political parties to do is to keep such criminals at an arm's length.

© Association for Democratic Reforms
Privacy And Terms Of Use
Donation Payment Method