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Bomb plant 4 km from police post

Calcutta, Oct. 28: The Sunday night blast in a Rampurhat village has thrown open a Pandora’s box with initial investigations revealing that local crimelord Basir Sheikh, supposedly close to a section of local police, was piecing together explosives that went off.

Basir was among the 14 killed in the explosion.

The special operations group of the CID, headed by Manoj Malaviya, reached the blast site with a bomb disposal squad this evening to probe the incident.

Director-general of police D.C. Vajpai said the ganglord and his associates were piling stocks and manufacturing crude explosive devices.

Preliminary investigations showed that Netai Das, who worked as a daily labourer, had rented out the ground floor of his house to Sheikh.

The CID spoke to about 50 villagers who unequivocally said that Sheikh was close to senior officers of the Rampurhat police station. Of late, he was forced out of the gang world by rivals.

There are several groups operating in the area, about 8 km from Tarapith. With pilgrims coming in from all over the country, Tarapith and its surroundings are considered “lucrative zones’’ for the gangs involved in dacoities and robberies, the police said.

Investigators said three of Sheikh’s accomplices were shot dead in encounters with rival groups in the last month. “He was chased out of the area by his rivals and was regrouping to stage a comeback,’’ a villager said.

CID officials added that Netai’s brother Sanat, a trolley puller at the local railway station, was a close Sheikh associate.

According to records available with the Birbhum police, Sheikh was wanted in several cases of murder, extortion and dacoities. He had been staying in Netai’s house for the past six months.

“Basir was paying a lump sum to Netai as rent,’’ the Rampurhat police said.

They added that yesterday, both Netai and Sanat were with Sheikh, putting together the explosives.

“The two-storied mud house was devastated in the blast and we have recovered several bombs from the surrounding areas,’’ a senior officer said.

CID sleuths and other senior police officers are now tying up the many loose ends in the case.

A senior CID officer in Birbhum questioned how Basir had gathered such a huge amount of explosives in the house.

“Netai’s house is a little more than 4 km from the police station. Villagers have told senior officers that a section of the police was close to Basir and was in regular touch with him,’’ the CID officer said.

He added that considering the impact of the blast and the subsequent investigations, it was evident that Basir was stocking the explosives for well over a month.

“How is it that he has been stocking exlosives without the knowledge of the local police'’’ he asked.

The Rampurhut police argued that officers have to patrol sensitive areas with scant resources and it was virtually impossible to keep track of every criminal activity in the area.

A chunk of the investigating officers, however, refused to buy this excuse.

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