Trinamul councillor Mohammad Iqbal, an accused in the sub-inspector murder case, had crossed the Hooghly by a dinghy and taken shelter in Howrah’s Nazirgunge while sleuths were waiting for a nod from their political bosses to catch him, officers involved with the probe said.
By the time a team from the detective department of the city police raided the hideout early on Thursday, Iqbal alias Munna had disappeared. The cops could only find two dozen cows in a cowshed on the nine-bigha plot, originally owned by Munna’s deceased brother Mughal.
“Munna and two others, Faiyaz and Sanu Naqvi, had taken a hand-rowed boat from Bichali Ghat in Garden Reach and reached Nazirgunge in Andul, around 20km from Calcutta, on Wednesday night,” a source said.
Nazirgunge, around 3km from Andul Road, can also be reached by road.
“The trio travelled by boat to avoid being caught. They did not opt for a motor-boat, which could have cut short the ride by at least half an hour, because the sound of the engine could have drawn people’s attention,” the source said.
Despite the borough XV chairman being charged with murder and rioting, the city police had to wait for over a day after the daylight killing of one of their colleagues before they got an informal nod to arrest him. The sources attribute the delay to Munna’s proximity to urban development minister Firhad Hakim, who had more than once asserted that the councillor was not involved in the February 12 violence outside Harimohan Ghose College in Garden Reach.
The sources said Munna was in the locality and turned up at the borough chairman’s office even after the murder. He planned his escape only after it emerged that his name figured in the FIR and he had been charged with instigating a mob that led to the murder of sub-inspector Tapas Chowdhury.
“He had wanted to surrender when his name started cropping up on Tuesday but the party refrained him from doing so and asked him to lie low for the time being. When news spread that he might be arrested, he was asked to go underground,” said a source close to Munna.
City police sources said the sleuths had been planning another raid on Thursday night but the government’s decision to hand over the case to the CID “changed everything”.
“Instead of focussing on the case, we all became busy with the formalities of handing over the responsibility to the CID,” said an officer.
Three associates of Munna were arrested from the Delhi-bound Kalka Mail at Burdwan station on Friday. Raj, Shakil and Firoz, alias Churi Firoz, all aged between 20 and 22 years, have been booked for rioting. Firoz is close to Ibne Saud, arrested for the cop murder.