It was around 10am on March 18 in 1984, a day after Holi, when a clash between residents snowballed in the Fatehpur Village Road area of Garden Reach.
Bombs were being hurled and in many houses mattresses and pillows had caught fire. The situation was becoming explosive.
When this correspondent reached the spot around noon a big force from the police stations in the port division had gathered and raids were being conducted in the serpentine lanes and bylanes. People armed with swords, choppers and pistols could be seen peeping from the rooftops of some of the houses.
The mob clashed with the police and the cops fired several rounds, that led to the death of two people.
It was around 1.30pm that word began to waft out that the cops had not seen their deputy commissioner, Vinod Mehta, for some time. Soon they realised that his bodyguard Mokhtar Ali was also missing.
The fact that the DC (port) and his bodyguard had been missing for about an hour at a place where there was a fierce clash earlier in the day, began to sink in.
The then police commissioner Nirupam Som along with DC(1) of the detective department, H.A. Safwi, and other senior officers rushed with reinforcements from Lalbazar. As the area fell close to the border of the then undivided 24-Parganas, district magistrate Ranu Ghosh and district superintendent of police K.K. Kalia also arrived.
An intensive search operation began with policemen armed with rifles and revolvers snaking through the lanes in search of Mehta and his bodyguard.
One clearly remembers the police commissioner running around with his service revolver in hand, telling us repeatedly, “We will not be able to take responsibility of your safety.”
In a clearing near a maze of lanes, something was burning inside a haystack. So many of us had walked by it several times, little realising — as it would be discovered much later — that it was the body of Mokhtar Ali. He had been hacked to death and stuffed inside the haystack and the stack then set on fire.
Some officers noticed residents leaving the area with bag and baggage. “Why should they do so? Do they know of something terrible having happened?” one officer wondered and alerted his seniors.
It was around 4pm that an anonymous caller to the Garden Reach police station said that Mehta had been murdered and his body stuffed into a drain. The caller also gave the location. Around 4.30pm, the police found Mehta.
Officers who saw the body said that Mehta had been beaten and hacked to death, his hands and feet tied up and his eyes gouged out.
Around the same time the smell of burning flesh led to the discovery of Mokhtar Ali’s body.
The police were furious. A massive raid was conducted in which several people of the area were rounded up and herded into police vans. “Ora amader DC ke merechhey.... (They have killed our DC)...”
I can still hear the cry from the cops.