Room No. 1 of Bridge Lodge (left) that Dipak Shaw was allegedly using as his pleasure den. A still from the CCTV footage (right) of the assault on manager Asish Manna on June 20. (Anup Bhattacharya)
Room No. 1 at Bridge Lodge in Howrah didn’t have any other guest for the past two years other than Dipak Shaw, the face of Trinamul in the area, who would check into this “personal suite” on the ground floor for pleasure, alleged hotel employees.
According to employees of the lodge at Golabari, a few hundred metres from Howrah railway station, Shaw came to the lodge for the first time three years ago when he was allegedly known as a “career extortionist” in the locality.
There are several lodges and budget hotels in the vicinity, but Shaw somehow fancied Bridge Lodge because the owner was not a resident of the area.
“Initially he requested the owner to let him use the room for some urgent work. After a few days, he started using force and intimidation,” said an elderly employee.
They alleged that Shaw eventually started using the room as his second home and spent most of his time there with his associates.
“He used to arrive unannounced even at odd hours and demand the key to the room. If the manager refused, he would beat him up,” said a senior employee.
Shaw would allegedly drink there every night with his friends and create a ruckus.
“If any of his associates arrived after midnight, Shaw would force me to open the door. Once I resisted and he punched me so hard I lost a tooth,” said the man working at Bridge Lodge for the past two decades.
Bridge Lodge has 23 rooms, not upscale but never short of occupancy because of its location. “Most of the days, there is more than 75 per cent occupancy,” an employee said.
Sumit Naha, the 49-year-old owner who died on Monday morning, had apparently told his manager Asish Manna to stop Shaw from entering his “pleasure den” as the noise from the room was harming the lodge’s reputation.
Manna, who Naha had appointed as manager on June 9, was beaten up when he refused Shaw and his associate Riaz Khan the room keys on June 20.
The CCTV footage provided by the hotel shows a man bearing resemblance to Shaw assaulting the manager.
“Sumitda wanted Shaw out as business was taking a hit because of him,” Manna said on Tuesday.
“Shaw is a local extortionist,” said Manna who had filed a complaint with Golabari police station after Shaw’s assault.
The accused started threatening Naha after the manager’s tenacious resistance kept him off the lodge.
Naha was found dead in his Baguiati home on Monday morning and the family blamed Shaw for the death. The family had lodged a formal complaint against Shaw and Riaz Khan for extortion and criminal intimidation but they are yet to be arrested.
Trinamul sources said Shaw was a petty goon but worked up the ladder once he came in contact with Santosh Sahani, husband of local councillor Lakshmi Sahani.
A party worker in ward 14 of the Howrah Municipal Corporation said: “Dipak to dada (Santosh) ka right hand tha (Dipak was dada’s right hand man).” His responsibility was to “handle” the vegetable market in Howrah.
“All the vans, small goods vehicles and lorries have to pay a cut while leaving the market every day. Shaw was in charge of collecting the money,” said the Trinamul worker.
Santosh Sahani denied any association with Shaw. “He is only an acquaintance, not my associate. I want the police to arrest him and punish him according to the law,” he said.
The police said they were “trying hard” to arrest Dipak and Riaz.
“Raids are being conducted in all possible hideouts,” said Ajay Ranade, commissioner of police, Howrah.
An officer of Golabari police station said: “We raided various places but could not find him.”