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Execution link in exec murders

- Gun assaults on Tata trio follow pattern, motive elusive

Four months. Murderous attacks on three Tata executives, one of them dead. Police stumped.

The serial shooting in Jamshedpur — all in the city’s elite neighbourhoods and following a similar pattern of execution — has left the force fumbling for motives and sent officers on many a wild goose chase.

East Singhbhum SSP Amol V. Homkar, who took charge of the district on November 20 last year, could not say for certain why senior officials of the business behemoth were being targeted since November 23. While he conceded that the same professionals might have been hired for the three gun assaults, Homkar couldn’t make the wildest guess on who was giving the possible supari and to what purpose.

Tata Steel manager (urban services) Vipul Kumar was shot at and critically injured on the night of November 23 outside United Club in Bistupur. Two men on a bike pumped two bullets into Kumar’s abdomen while he was about to get into his car. The gutsy 44-year-old executive managed to drive himself to Tata Main Hospital, which perhaps saved his life.

Police probe zeroed in on a 7.65-bore pistol — usually used by professional sharpshooters — as the attack weapon. Homkar and his team picked up several suspects as a follow-up, but the case stands “unsolved” to this date.

In more recent memory is the gruesome killing of assistant general manager of TML Drivelines (a subsidiary of Tata Motors) Brajesh Sahay. The 40-year-old father of one received four bullets in the head, chest and neck while at the steering wheel of his car right outside his bungalow on 18C Dalma Road in Nildih, Telco, on February 23.

The number of assailants was again two, who came on a bike, and used the same calibre pistol as was used in the November attack. Police are still juggling with hypothetical motives — from vexed vendors who were subjected to strict scrutiny under Sahay to a compulsory retirement scheme affecting 300-odd non-performing employees. A breakthrough is not in sight.

On Monday night, yet another Tata Steel manager — Nildih area resident and equipment maintenance department executive Ratnesh Raj (28) — was shot at and injured barely 300 metres from former chief minister Arjun Munda’s residence in Ghorabandha.

Raj, who was attacked while he was getting off his car outside a friend’s apartment, has taken three bullets in the chest, abdomen and shoulder. Quite uncannily, the rounds were fired by two assailants on a bike with a 7.65-bore pistol.

Police probe has just begun. The victim’s mobile phone call details are being studied and his flat in P-Type has been searched for clues. Result: nil till the filing of this report.

SSP Homkar agreed that all three incidents had a pattern. “But despite our best efforts, we have not been able to zero in on any individual or common motive. We will keep trying,” he said.

A senior Tata Steel official, on the condition of anonymity, expressed his fears. “The city has suddenly become unsafe for us (company employees). We are scared of stepping out after dusk.”

The SSP said that they were installing CCTV cameras and intensifying patrolling on deserted stretches to curb the spurt in crime.