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State opens one eye on murder
- Police dump mishap theory, question motive

Calcutta, March 8: What was an “accident” on Sunday became a murder on Monday.

Confronted by overwhelming evidence, the administration — after trying its best over the last two days to pass off Shankar Pal’s death as a mishap — conceded that he was murdered by Holi revellers.

Only the reason for the gruesome murder — initially sought to be explained as the result of a collision with a motorcycle — remained to tally with the eyewitness version of events.

Pal was murdered because he fell foul of a band of promoters, police said, dismissing witnesses who continued to insist that the killing came a few minutes after he ticked off a bunch of hooligans for teasing women trying to wash off their Holi colours in a neighbourhood pond at Kaltala near Baguiati.

The chief minister backed up the change-and-no-change stance in the Assembly.

“Shankar Pal was murdered on Saturday,” Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said.

“But according to preliminary investigations, the murder appears to be a fallout of a landlady-tenant tiff,” he added, quoting from police reports.

But the CPM, which waited more than 24 hours after the murder to claim Pal as one of their own, contradicted him.

A CPM district secretariat member told The Telegraph that Pal had been “specifically asked not to venture out during Holi”.

“He was known to have a hot temper,” the district secretariat member said.

“Incidents like this (eve-teasing) are commonplace during Holi and we were apprehensive,” he added, explaining the informal party fiat on Pal, and regretted that “Shankar did not listen to us”.

“It is difficult for the party to acknowledge an incident of eve-teasing in an area known to be under the sole control of the party, especially with the approaching polls,” a Dum Dum-1 local committee member said. “We do not want to hand an issue to the Opposition,” he added.

By evening, the party —which could not deny the eve-teasing incident — linked it to the promoter-theory now being bandied about.

The Holi incident was “a pretext by a promoter’s men to provoke Shankar”, one local committee leader said.

But leaders on quote would not differ with the chief minister.

“Shankar was linked to our contractors’ labourers’ union,” district secretariat member Paltu Dasgupta said.

“He was killed by people who were known to him,” he added, explaining that Pal’s refusal to settle for Rs 25,000 and vacate his rented accommodation — to help the landlady promote a building — could have done him in.

One person — Puchkai Das — was arrested on Monday, Dum Dum police station officials said. But the fact that he is a nephew of Tapan Das (the friend who saw Pal being beaten to death) has led to the arrest being termed another “eyewash” by witnesses.

Puchkai was not in the neighbourhood for a few days, they said. The police version of the arrest — that he was picked out from a hideout in nearby Dakshinpara — only seemed to confirm that he was not in the locality when Pal was murdered.

North 24-Parganas superintendent of police Basudeb Bag did not appear too keen to speak. “Shankar Pal was murdered on Saturday,” he said.

“But, because you seem to know more than me about the case, I will not say a word more,” he added.

Tapan, too, was picked up for interrogation during the day. So was Tapan’s elder brother, South Bengal State Transport Corporation employee Nibash Das.

“Our family is being pushed to the edge,” Nibash’s wife Jayanti said. “Our only fault appears to be that Tapan saw Shankar being beaten up.”

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