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Union ‘role’ in jute death
- CID rules out outsider hand after taking over probe

June 18: The CID today took over the probe into the murder of the Northbrook Jute mill president and ruled out the involvement of outsiders in a preliminary report.

The state investigating agency said the probe so far pointed to the involvement of all unions at the mill.

“There are nine unions at the mill (in Hooghly’s Champdani) and primarily, it doesn’t appear that outsiders were present when H.K. Maheshwari was attacked near the main gate. The gathering (that attacked the mill president) had representatives from all unions,” a senior CID officer said.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had on Monday accused unions owing allegiance to the CPM and the BJP of the attack, appearing to pass a verdict at a time the probe is in a nascent stage. Within hours of the murder, the chief minister had alleged that “outsiders” were involved in the murder.

“A conspiracy is at work everywhere ever since the new government was formed. A whisper campaign is on…. Should I mention the name of the two parties? The BJP and the CPM have unions there (Northbrook). The murder was pre-planned,” she had said in the Assembly.

Maheshwari, 69, was battered to death on June 15 when he tried to speak to a section of jute mill workers agitating against the management’s proposal of cutting down on work hours to tackle financial stress.

In the past too, the chief minister had commented on alleged crimes while investigations were in progress. She had dubbed “sajano (fabricated)” the Park Street rape case in 2012. Calcutta police, however, concluded in their probe that the woman had been raped. The same year, she had questioned the veracity of the allegation that a woman in Burdwan’s Katwa had been raped.

A CID team today visited Northbrook and spoke to several members of the mill’s management and some workers. “We will take the eight arrested accused into our custody and interrogate them again,” an officer said.

The CID has learnt that Maheshwari had tried to speak to the agitating workers despite repeated pleas by the management against doing so. Two others accompanying Maheshwari — Kamalnath Jha, the general manager, works; and Jadugopal Debnath, the security head — had also requested the mill president not to face the mob. But Maheshwari insisted on meeting the protesters and ordered the guards manning the main entrance to open the gates.

The CID had found out that five minutes into the talks, the workers started hurling stones and pieces of broken flowerpots at Maheshwari, Jha and Debnath. Some workers had removed Jha and Debnath from the spot before assaulting Maheshwari.

The mill president was then hurled to the ground and his head battered with stones and bricks.

A team of chief executives of jute mills in Hooghly met the district superintendent of police, Sunil Choudhary, today and requested him to ensure their safety.

Choudhary said he told the mill representatives to call him up if they faced law and order problems. “Mobile patrolling will be done during change of shifts. Every month, an additional SP will hold a meeting to review the situation at the mills. I have also told the CEOs to install CCTV cameras at the mills,” he said.

The management of Weaverly Jute Mills at Shyamnagar in North 24-Parganas today declared suspension of work.

Suresh Kumar Agarwal, the executive director of the mill, said that yesterday, two mill workers, along with a “mob” of 15-20 people, had gheraoed a senior official. “They had no specific demand. They protested the management’s move to tell some labourers to work overtime,” he said.

Labour minister Purnendu Bose today said the state government would formulate a policy in the interest of jute workers, growers and mill owners. He added that the policy would be discussed with the central government.