The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bloodstain on white hat
(From top)Suhrid Dutta, Debu Malik. Pictures by Krishna Chandra Mishra

Chinsurah, June 28: Suhrid Dutta, who was arrested in the Tapasi Malik murder today, had been the most visible face in Singur since the land acquisition process began in September.

Sporting white kurta-pyjamas and a white hat, the 55-year-old secretary of the party zonal committee seemed ever present at the Singur panchayat office.

From collecting consent letters from villagers to sending regular updates to the government on the state of land acquisition, Suhrid worked closely with the district administration.

He personally spoke to the villagers and tried to convince them about the benefits of the Tata Motors project.

At other times, the 5-foot-3-inch man would have his cellphone pressed to his ear, barking instructions to everyone from the district magistrate to the director of industries.

Suhrid was in charge of the fencing of the acquired land. Marshalling his men and looking after the logistics, he worked day and night to meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s target of handing over the land to the Tatas in three months.

A resident of Apurbapur in Singur, Suhrid is a dyed-in-the-wool CPM member. He was the sabhapati of the Singur panchayat samity for 15 years till 1998.

The bachelor, who lives with his elder brother, a retired marine engineer, is also one of those rare CPM whole-timers who don’t take wages from the party.

Suhrid’s soaring popularity had sparked the buzz in Singur last year that he would be given a ticket to contest the Assembly polls.

But the ticket went to Srikanta Chatterjee, who lost to the Trinamul Congress’s Rabindranath Bhattacharya.

Suhrid had maintained a low profile for some time after that. But he shot back to the limelight last September, zipping around in a motorbike — not his own, but his comrades’ — when the Tatas decided to come to Bengal.

Suhrid was also considered the “political guru” of 45-year-old Debu Malik, his co-accused in the murder.

An active party worker for two decades, Debu was a useful hand during elections. He used to operate an irrigation deep tube-well belonging to the Singur panchayat samity until the Tata Motors project came up.

Debu was close to both Suhrid and the former Singur zonal committee secretary, Dibakar Das. He was often seen riding pillion on Dibakar’s motorcycle.

The CPM engaged Debu as a labour contractor to supply workers and guards for the Tata project.

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