From Shahjahan Sheikh to JCB and Jayant, Strongmen Politics on The Rise in West Bengal

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Tajimul being taken to police station; a video grab of the incident. (X)

The big question on every Bengali’s minds these days is whether Bengal politics is revolving around strongmen who build their own criminal ecosystem with political help.

From Sandeshkhali to Chopra, the state of West Bengal has seen the rise of strongmen politics over the past few months. While ‘dadas‘ in politics are not new in Bengal, the strongman culture is on the rise. The big question on every Bengali’s minds these days is whether Bengal politics is revolving around strongmen who build their own criminal ecosystem with political help.

From Shahjahan Sheikh, who was known as the “betaj badshah” of Sandeshkhali to Tajimul Islam, popularly known as the JCB of Chopra and Jayant Singh, the local strongman of Aaryadaha Barrackpur who beat up a teenager and his mother last week and whose 2021 video of beating up a person has gone viral, Bengal has seen several such men in politics over the past few years.

However, these strongmen haven’t cropped up suddenly, with most of them having their origins since the Left era. Majid Master of Shashon, North 24 Parganas, Tapan, Sukur of Medinipur – all of these were know as strongmen of the Left. Their might and their power was everything in those areas. The Left was voted out of power in 2011 with major strongmen behind bars and some started changing sides. Shahjahan Sheikh was one of them. Locals say Chopra’s JCB was also with the Left earlier.

Political analysts say that these strongmen, who were in the hands of political leaders of the Communist Party, became leaders in the Trinamool Congress era, and, the limit to how much is to be done and to what extent had no control.

Arabul Islam, known as the strongmen of the Bhangar area and Anubrata Mondal (now behind bars), President of Birbhum TMC, were popular strongmen of this area.

Anubrata, Arabul, Shahjhan – all had party posts with them. However, even though JCB and Jayant Singh are not party post holders, they show their might dropping the names of powerful local TMC leaders like Hamidul and Madan Mitra.

Locals in Chopra and in Sandeshkhali say that these strongmen intimidate people during elections and operate in such a way that their party wins unopposed, and their power grows.

There are at least 12 cases against the JCB of Chopra and an attempt to murder case against Jayant Singh, who was behind bars for a brief period, but eventually got bail.

More videos (not verified) have surfaced over the past few days showing the absolute “dadagiri” of Jayant Singh. Jayant also deals with properties and locals say, he has his syndicate there.

The issue is that these strongmen have been getting political party protection since time immemorial and after some time, they get bail, without any strict punishment.

Political War of Words

Sukanto Majumdar, BJP Bengal President, said, “This is Talibani rule in Bengal, it is seen in videos that they are giving training with weapons. Imagine what Mamata Banerjee is doing.”

Agnimitra Paul of the BJP stated, “They have divided Bengal amidst these strongmen, they are allowed to do everything, during elections, they will bring the party votes, that’s it.”

On the other hand, TMC’s Kunal Ghosh put up a defence saying, “This is bad administration. We are taking all steps and strong punishment will be given to culprits in such cases. But the BJP and Left should not talk as in their areas, things are worse, they will not send central teams there.”

Riju Duttan, TMC spokesperson, also said, “The BJP lost, that’s why they are coming with old incidents. Administration has taken strict measures.”

While war between political parties will go on, the question remains as to whether strongmen politics will ever see an end in Bengal.

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