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Munna hunt and pause

Calcutta, Feb. 14: A Lalbazar effort to arrest Mohammad Iqbal alias Munna, a Trinamul councillor, was on pause after police commissioner R.K. Pachnanda was transferred and the Garden Reach shooting case handed over to the CID.

Six teams of the detective department, which were combing several parts of Garden Reach and Metiabruz to arrest Munna, returned to their bases as a CID team entered the Garden Reach police station to formally take charge of the case and start the investigations afresh.

“We were trying our best to arrest him as he was referred to in the FIR over the murder of Tapas Chowdhury. Now a different agency has taken up the case…. They will pursue it,” said a senior detective department officer.

Sources in Lalbazar said the force was under immense pressure from sections of the government to go slow on the arrests of Trinamul activists, especially Munna.

But, on Tuesday afternoon, a unanimous decision was taken at a meeting between Pachnanda and all additional and joint commissioners that the force would go all out to arrest everyone connected with Chowdhury’s murder.

The two main accused — Abdus Subhan and Mohammad Ibne Saud — are already behind bars. But a key arrest remained — that of Munna, believed to be the mentor of the nephew-uncle duo.

The FIR on the police officer’s murder mentions a “chairman-saab” — the way Munna is usually referred to in the port division. “Chairman saab instigated a group of four to five men that was trying to drag away a youth. Chowdhury was trying to separate the youth when he was fired upon,” mentions the FIR (No. 35, dated 12.02.2013) filed in the Garden Reach police station.

Last night, a team of officers from the detective department’s anti-rowdy squad and the homicide wing had raided more than six hideouts, including one each at Bichalighat and Nazirgunge in the port area, but Munna was not found. “As Munna is a satrap with a sizeable following in the port area, we took commandos with us to avoid any heavy resistance,” said an officer.

In a follow-up to the aborted move, on Thursday afternoon, a joint commissioner of police was sent to Bodyguard Lines at Alipore to work out ways to catch Munna — either through arrest or through negotiated surrender.

An officer said some of his superiors spoke to key functionaries in the government to explore the option of Munna surrendering in court with prior intimation.

The attempt to find a face-saver for the Trinamul government, however, drew a blank as minister Firhad Hakim reportedly insisted that Munna could not be touched.

“The chief minister made it clear that she was not happy that Munna was named — although in an oblique reference — in both the FIRs drawn up in the Garden Reach case,” said an official of the home department at Writers’. “She told the officers that she wanted to see Mukhtar (Congress functionary) and all his associates behind bars,” he added.

However, some officers did not rule out the possibility of an arranged surrender of Munna in a day or two. “The chief minister has said that all the accused have to be brought to book…. In an attempt to show that the CID has done something, the possibility of surrender seems likely,” said the officer.

Within an hour of Tuesday’s incident, Hakim had said that Congress supporter Mohammad Mukhtar led the attack.

“It was clear from the television footage that Mukhtar was nowhere near the place of the incident and it was communicated to the political bosses that he could not be arrested on murder charges,” said an officer. “Had we arrested Mukhtar on murder charges, the case would have fallen flat in court on the ground of motivated complaint,” he added.

On the contrary, the case against Munna was strong, said police sources.

Some officers are still pinning their hopes on the FIR. “The case may have been taken away from us but, given the way the FIR has been drawn up, it is difficult to spare Munna…. It remains to be seen how the CID handles the case,” said an IPS officer.

According to him, even if Munna is not arrested, his name would feature in the chargesheet. But sources said if the CID investigation does not find any evidence against a person already named in the FIR, such names can be dropped.


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