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Lackey sings, leader faces test

Calcutta, June 29: Suhrid Dutta’s fate now rests on a lie test.

The polygraph test in Delhi will determine who’s lying: Debu Malik, solely on whose statements the CBI has built the Tapasi Malik murder case, or Suhrid, who claimed today that he was “framed”.

Based on the statements of Debu, the agency has slapped grave charges on Suhrid, the CPM Singur zonal committee leader who was arrested yesterday on the charge of “masterminding” the murder of the 18-year-old campaigner against land acquisition (see chart).

Produced in court today, both have been remanded in CBI custody for 14 days.

Information trickling out of the interrogation centre suggests that Debu is singing like a canary and heaping all blame on his foe-turned-mentor. Debu, a CPM supporter, had switched sides from a rival faction to Suhrid’s during the Singur mobilisation.

The CBI is looking for corroborative evidence but Suhrid, the investigators say, has not been able to refute Debu’s allegations. “Suhrid has been saying ‘no involvement at all’ but little else to disprove the charges,” an officer said.

With Suhrid saying today that he was framed by Debu and the CPM standing by its Singur face, the CBI has decided to take him to Delhi for a lie test. A similar test had nailed Debu earlier.

Quoting Debu, CBI sources said the murder was carried out with the full knowledge of Suhrid who got four outsiders to execute the plan.

Debu has been claiming that his role was more of a facilitator who helped the four identify Tapasi and get them the diesel with which she was burnt alive. “Debu gave specific details like two of the four outsiders did not know Bengali and spoke in Hindi,” a CBI officer said.

According to Debu, Tapasi’s name first cropped up when he received a call from Suhrid saying he had a few things to discuss about her. This was just after Tapasi had delivered a firebrand speech at a meeting of the Save Farmland Committee in December 2006.

“Debu said Suhrid told him about the need to eliminate Tapasi, adding that four youths would meet him soon. Debu’s job would be to help the four,” the CBI officer said.

Subsequently, Debu claimed, the four turned up while he was on night vigil near the project fence and asked him to identify Tapasi and her house. The girl could not be found but the four were shown her house. Two days later, Tapasi was pointed out to them.

“On December 17, Debu said, the youths asked him to get diesel and booze. In the wee hours of December 18, as Tapasi stepped out of her house to relieve herself, they picked her up. The five beat her up with sticks, raped her, doused her with the diesel and set her on fire,” the officer said.

But a question mark hangs over the alleged motive: kill Tapasi to send a message to other protesters. The immense damage such a course of action can wreak on the showpiece Singur project far outweighs the supposed benefit.

Mamata Banerjee reached Singur this evening and will hold a rally tomorrow.

If Mamata opted for a bandh in December to protest the murder, the CPM has dipped into the same arsenal to express solidarity with Suhrid by calling a 12-hour shutdown in Singur tomorrow.

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