Taha Mohammad Quadri. His face has been blurred because he said his family feared for his life
Calcutta, Feb. 13: One of the images that stood out in the stunning footage of the Garden Reach shooting was of a shirtless man ducking during the melee and then stumbling while running.
The recorded sequence suggests he was the real target and the bullet that missed him tore into sub-inspector Tapas Chowdhury. The shooter could be identified from the footage because of his red jersey but the features of the shirtless man were not clear.
Following enquiries made by The Telegraph, a source took this reporter to a location in the interiors of Metiabruz where a youth whose hairstyle resembled that of the shirtless man on the footage spoke in detail.
The petrified youth identified himself as Taha Mohammad Quadri, 21, a third-year humanities student of Harimohan Ghose College, outside which the police officer was murdered. Quadri, a Congress-backed Chhatra Parishad student activist, was general secretary of the college union in 2011-12.
Quadri narrates his version:
I am very scared after yesterday’s incident. I appeal to chief minister Mamata Banerjee to provide me protection from anti-socials who might target me.
After my parents saw on TV the images of a Trinamul man opening fire at me, they did not allow me to go even to the verandah that overlooks the road. In the afternoon, some senior leaders from the party (Congress) took me out.
It would have been around 10.30am when I reached the college with other members of the Chhatra Parishad. We were expecting trouble as Tuesday was the first day of picking up nomination forms for the student body elections scheduled for February 28. Local TMC councillor Ranajit Seal had a week ago threatened Chhatra Parishad members with dire consequences if we dared to contest.
When we reached college, we saw TMC students in the queue to pick up the forms but not a single Chhatra Parishad student. Juniors told me that some students of our union had collected the forms but some outsiders slapped them and snatched the forms.
When I tried to enter the college, a handful of cops stopped me. But I could see many strangers freely roaming inside. When I tried to argue with the cops, some outsiders rained blows on my friends and me. Initially, we tried defending ourselves but left the spot after we were severely outnumbered.
After some time, we regrouped and went back. A bigger mob attacked us this time and someone ripped my shirt off. The police just stood there. Then I realised that some people were circling me and others were chasing my friends.
I smelt real danger — they were trying to cut me off from my friends and isolate me. Seeking safety, I moved towards a posse of cops standing near the bus stand just outside the college.
A man in white uniform, who I later found out was sub-inspector Tapas Chowdhury, was also standing there. I was facing him when I saw the man and others around him staring at something behind me and shock spreading in their faces.
I don’t know what happened or why I did so but I ducked. Just then, I heard an explosion and saw the man in front of me slump.
I was seeing everything but little was registering. I did not even know if the bullet hit me or not. I just ran.
The images of my parents and younger siblings flashed in front of my eyes. Now I recall that at one point while running down Paharpur Road, I promised myself that I will never again risk my life like this. I decided that after graduating, I will concentrate on preparations for the state’s civil service examinations.
I took shelter in a friend’s house before reaching home at 2.30pm.
In Quadri’s narration, he did not mention that Congress functionary Mohammad Mukhtar was at the spot. Police officers investigating the case said Mukhtar and his associates, too, hurled bombs and possibly opened fire. Mukhtar could not be contacted for comment.