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Shoe baron killed

Jamshedpur, Nov. 2: Shoe baron Ashish Dey, whose Sreeleathers brand is a household footwear name, was killed by suspected rangdaari extortionists this morning in the steel city’s busy commercial centre.

The 52-year-old businessman had received several calls for protection money from “rangdaars” (local toughs) and had informed police about them. He was offered police protection, but had declined.

The callers had demanded money in the name of the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) but a relative said the calls were made from Jamshedpur itself.

Ashish, the youngest of Sreeleathers founder Suresh Chandra Dey’s three sons, was in charge of the 40-year-old showroom in Sakchi market, the first to be started by the group. He also owned Hotel Smita in Jamshedpur, named after his 10-year-old daughter. Ashish and his wife Dolon also have two sons, Subhasish, 12, and Soyan, 6.

His immediate elder brother Satyabrata runs the operations in Calcutta, where another shoe baron, Parthapratim Roy Burman of Khadim’s, was abducted in 2001 and released after paying ransom.

Like every morning, Ashish left his Aambagan residence in the heart of the city on his TVS Victor for the showroom. He owned a Honda CRV and a Bolero but chose the motorbike as the showroom was less than a kilometre from his house. Ashish usually carried a licensed revolver, but today he didn’t.

He had travelled barely 400 metres when two men on a black motorcycle intercepted him near a school at 8.45am. Witnesses said the pillion rider whipped out a gun and fired at the businessmen, who collapsed on the road. The assailants zipped off towards Bengal Club, a stone’s throw from Ashish’s residence.

The businessman, hit twice in the abdomen, lay bleeding on the road for about 10 minutes before traffic constables arranged an auto-rickshaw to take him to the Tata Main Hospital. But Ashish died on the way.

Police superintendent Naveen Singh said: “Preliminary investigation suggests that the killing was an outcome of the demand for money.”

Singh said Ashish had first received calls to pay up about 10 months ago. “The callers demanded ransom in the name of Ulfa. The Deys had informed the local police station, as well as the CID, IB and Calcutta police,” the SP said.

The eldest of the Dey brothers, Shekhar, said the killing was a result of extortion. “It’s a clear case of extortion,” he said. “The police were ready to provide bodyguards to Ashish, but he turned them down. The police have provided a guard at my brother’s residence for the last 10 months,” he said.

Shekhar said his brother’s killers were local extortionists. “Ulfa has no role to play. The calls were not coming from Assam. They were traced to Burmamines (a Jamshedpur locality).”

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