| A CBI sleuth poring over a fence outside the memorial museum. Picture by Amit Datta
April 8: The mystery shrouding the theft of Tagore memorabilia deepened today after a researcher, under the CBI scanner for his “active interest” in the poet’s Nobel medal and citation, was found roaming smirched with blood several hours after he went missing from his hotel.
Kamal Bhattacharya, a retired bank employee who had migrated from Bangladesh 40 years ago and had been living in Calcutta’s Moore Avenue since, had grievous injuries around his wrists and neck.
The CBI had interrogated him in the past couple of days to cross-examine information that he had been meeting people with similar interest in Tagore’s memorabilia from across the border and within the country. CBI officials said that he had recently changed his name through an affidavit to Kamaal.
A policeman was placed in front of his hotel to keep a watch on him. “We suspect that someone wanted to kill or scare him by slashing his wrists and neck with a sharp weapon as a warning of the possible consequences for talking to the CBI,” a senior police official connected with the heist probe said.
Bhattacharya, 56, arrived in Santiniketan on March 12 and checked into a local hotel before leaving for the Uttarayan complex, to continue his research on Tagore with a special interest in his Nobel citation, and astrophysics, which he had been carrying out for the past few years.
Bhattacharya was last seen leaving the hotel around 6 pm yesterday. When he did not return till midnight, the hotel authorities informed the CBI officials about the disappearance of their “special guest”.
A frantic search did not yield result but around 11 this morning, Bhattacharya was seen yards from the hotel. “He had injury marks on his wrists and throat. He told us that he met with an accident and we have begun an inquiry into this case,” said Mrityunjoy Banerjee, the officer- in-charge of Bolpur police station.
Bhattacharya was rushed to the subdivisional hospital.
During interrogation, Bhattacharya said he met with an accident in front of a prominent local confectionery. A police inquiry revealed that no such accident occurred there last evening. Residents of the area, too, could not recall any mishap.
Manabendra Ghosh, the hospital superintendent, described Bhattacharya’s injury as “uncommon and difficult to inflict on his own”. He ruled out the possibility of an accident resulting in the wounds. “It is impossible to have only injury marks on his arms and neck after an accident. Someone else might have a hand in it.”
The researcher, whom vice-chancellor Sujit Basu faintly remembers meeting during “morning walks” on the campus, had of late taken great interest in astrophysics, his Moore Avenue landlord Goutam Chakraborty said. “He was a bachelor and an employee of a nationalised bank,” Chakraborty said. “He had recently taken voluntary retirement and had devoted his time to research, especially in astrophysics. He used to often visit Santiniketan but in all these years, we never found any of his relatives visiting him.”
A senior CBI official told The Telegraph: “He has been coming to Santiniketan for the past few years and had started work in astrophysics and then showed lot of interest in Tagore and has submitted several applications with the Visva-Bharati authorities for research work.” His fingerprint samples had been taken for a “routine” check.