They stopped their man, chatted him up, shot him and walked away — all in broad daylight in a congested area of south Calcutta. It was murder at high noon in Hazra, as two goons gunned down Raj Kumar Paswan, 45, on Thursday.
At least 25 people watched in horror, but no one mustered up the courage to stop the youths. It was only after they disappeared down a narrow lane off Hazra Road that the bystanders rushed to help Paswan. By then, it was too late. The victim was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was declared dead.
According to the area’s residents, Paswan was a “reformed criminal’’, who lived in a two-room house in Garcha. Deputy commissioner of police, south, Kuldeep Singh, said there were a dozen cases of extortion and rioting against the victim at Ballygunge and Bhowanipore police stations. “He used to terrorise the area till 1995,’’ said Singh.
In 1995, Paswan abandoned the path of crime and set up a stationery shop. “He employed two of his associates to run the shop,’’ said a neighbour. The peace in the area was shattered recently when some local youths turned to crime. Paswan was dragged into the fray when police picked up some of these boys earlier this year. Their associates wanted Paswan to help them obtain bail. “Word went around that Paswan had tipped off the police, leading to the boys’ arrest,’’ said a resident of Hazra. “When the boys finally obtained bail, they threatened Paswan with dire consequences.”
Flashpoint was reached last week when Paswan got into “an argument” with these youths in front of a few neighbours. “Paswan told me they were demanding protection money, which he had refused. But he seemed agitated and nervous,’’ said one of the witnesses.
Kuldeep Singh, however, alleged that Paswan had, of late, been dabbling in crime and had built up a gang of boys. “He was the mastermind… He would direct the gang on what crime to commit and how. We suspect there was a dispute over the spoils, leading to Paswan giving some of the boys marching orders from the gang. Preliminary information suggests that two of the disgruntled youths killed him on Thursday,’’ said Singh.
According to Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department, the area off Hazra Road is “full of illicit country liquor stalls and satta dens’’. A police picket has been posted in the area to prevent any flare-up.