Howrah, Aug. 2: Bike-borne assailants tonight shot dead a Howrah trader returning home with his two-year-old daughter in his arms, a few days after he wrote to the police commissioner saying he had received threats for protesting an extortion attempt on a fellow businessman.
As blood splattered on the face of the baby, her father put her down on the road before collapsing.
At least 30 people were present on the Shibpur road when Babu Bagchi, who owned a sawmill, was shot around 9pm. They said at least six bullets were fired, of which two hit Bagchi, in his fifties, in his throat and chest.
After the killers left, a resident picked up Bagchi’s daughter, who was crying, and took her home. “The little one could also have been hit by a bullet had her father not put her down and pushed her behind him,” an eyewitness said.
Policemen from a nearby outpost rushed to the spot but, by then, the attackers had fled.
“The attackers threatened to kill anybody who dared to protest,” a resident said.
Bagchi, whose marriage at the Indian Botanic Garden in 2008 had kicked up a controversy that eventually led to a high court ruling that no such ceremonies could be held inside the reserve, was known to have CPM links.
Residents said Bagchi, who was killed 100 metres from his home at College Ghat Road, had “antagonised” a local gang by protesting its attempts to extort Rs 5 lakh from a fellow trader last month.
“He had written to the police commissioner and the home secretary informing them about the threat to his life. He had expressed fears that he could be killed,” a resident said.
The police had set up two pickets — one near the gate of the botanic garden, 100 metres from Bagchi’s home, and another 30 metres from the spot where he was murdered — after he sent the letters.
The eyewitnesses said the killers came from the side of Shalimar railway station.
Bagchi’s wife Moumita, 25, said a gang had come to the couple’s home last month and threatened to kill her husband because he was trying to stop them from extorting money. “They had said they would kill him any day,” she said.
Residents said Bagchi was popular in the area because of his philanthropic activities. “He used to help people with money whenever they were in need,” a resident said.
The residents had not allowed the police to take away Bagchi’s body till 1am.