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Sabitri gets Rs 50 lakh demand call from ‘KLO’

- Threat to kill minister, daughter and son-in-law, police detain woman from whose number call was made

Malda, Jan. 20: Social welfare minister Sabitri Mitra today said she had received a phone call last night from a man who had threatened to kill her and her family members if she didn’t pay Rs 50 lakh to the Kamtapur Liberation Organisation.

Old Malda police today detained a woman as the number from where the call had come was in her name. But she told investigators that she had lost her mobile phone five days back.

Sabitri was in Siliguri last night ahead of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s visit when she received the call. “I received a call around 9.45pm yesterday. A male voice said: ‘I am Manik from the KLO. The chief of our group, Malkhan Singh, wants Rs 50 lakh from you. If you fail to pay up, you and your family members will be killed,” Sabitri said over the phone.

“The caller even said that I, my daughter and son-in-law would be killed. The caller disconnected the phone even before I could say a word. After that, I tried to call that number, but the phone was switched off. I called up the Malda police superintendent, Kalyan Mukherjee, and told him about the call,” she said.

Sabitri said she failed to understand why a militant organisation would threaten to kill her.

“I have no idea why such a call came to me. I am not at all scared. I will not ask for extra security just because of a crank call. I work for the people and if I am in danger, the public will stand by me.”

The caller hasn’t set a deadline for the minister, who represents Malda’s Manikchak in the Assembly, to pay the amount.

The threat call has come at a time the police say the KLO has stepped up activities in north Bengal. A blast in Jalpaiguri that killed six persons on December 26 and a firing on a private bus in Malda’s Habibpur the next day were blamed on the KLO.

The police claimed that Malkhan Singh was personally involved in the bus shooting in which five persons were injured.

Malda police chief Kalyan Mukherjee said here today that an investigation was on.

“Minister Sabitri Mitra received a call last night apparently from the KLO which threatened to kill her. I am not saying anything further for the sake of the probe,” he said.

Sources, however, said Old Malda police had detained a woman, Rinara Bibi from Balarampur, in connection with the call. Rinara, 32, is a homemaker and the wife of a daily labourer.

“The number from which the call was made was in her name. She has told the police that she lost her mobile phone with its SIM card five days ago. The woman couldn’t tell us why she had not informed the police about the loss of her mobile phone. She is being interrogated,” said a source.

Talking over the phone, Sabitri also said the CPM could be behind the threat call.

“I am involved in development work in rural areas and it could be the ploy of the CPM to create unrest among the people before the Lok Sabha polls.”

The CPM rubbished her comments. “The CPM believes in public meetings and rallies. I have no idea who called the minister and threatened her. What the minister has said about us is laughable,” said Ambar Mitra, the Malda district secretary of the CPM.

Following the firing at the bus, the police had raided several places in Habibpur, Bamungola and Gajole in Malda and arrested Kamtapur Peoples’ Party (KPP) leader Subhas Barman.

Alleged KLO members, Falen Barman, Chhoton Roy, Uttam Mondol and Sanjoy Barman, were also arrested in connection with the shooting and they are presently in police custody.

The Malda police also put up posters with the photographs of Malkhan Singh, Nabanu Barman and Kumod Mondol, asking the public for information on their whereabouts.