July 1: Tapas Paul’s letter of apology on what looks like an MP’s official letterhead begins by saying the remarks were “made by me in the heat and dust of the election campaign”.
But the Trinamul Congress’s block president at Nadia’s Nakashipara — where Choumaha, the site of the speech, falls — had another version.
Ashok Dutta, the Trinamul block president, told The Telegraph: “Tapas Paul made the speech at Choumaha on June 14. I was present there and was stunned how an MP could utter such words.”
The Lok Sabha elections were over by May 12 in the entire country. No other election has taken place in Bengal since then.
It is not clear which election campaign Paul has referred to in his letter.
The gravity of the matter does not change whether Paul made the utterances during an election campaign or after that. But since a person from Paul’s own party has mentioned another date, it now falls upon the MP to prove that he did not misrepresent facts in a signed letter.
One of the villagers and resident of Choumaha, who requested anonymity for obvious reasons, told this newspaper: “I recorded the speech and in my mobile the date has also been recorded. It was June 14.”
A Trinamul worker who identified himself as Sahebjan Sheikh, also a resident of Choumaha, said: “I remember clearly that the day on which Tapas Paul came to our village and delivered the speech was June 14.”
Asked about the three versions that did not match what Paul had stated in the letter circulated by Trinamul, party all-India general secretary Mukul Roy said: “We ran a check…. We have learnt he made this before the elections.”
Told about the specific responses from the three villagers, Roy said: “Check again.”
Derek O’Brien, the national spokesperson for Trinamul, said: “I don’t know. The letter was written by Tapas Paul. Ask him.”
Paul’s letter also says that “there was an attempt at provocation”.
The sequence of events narrated by villagers suggests Paul went to Choumaha, 130km from Calcutta, to call on the families of two Trinamul workers who had died in a road accident in June.
Before and after visiting Choumaha, Paul had toured two places where two Trinamul workers were killed in May. Trinamul has blamed the CPM for the deaths but the Opposition party has denied the charges.
Paul went to Haranagar first. Then he reached Choumaha, around 10km away, and made the speech whose footage was aired on Monday.
From Choumaha, he proceeded to Gopinathpur, 10km from Choumaha. At Haranagar, a Trinamul worker was killed on May 31. In Gopinathpur, a Trinamul worker was injured in a clash on May 14 and died on May 17.
If the two deaths were the provocation Paul had mentioned in the letter, both took place after the Lok Sabha elections that ended on May 12. So, it is still unclear why Paul referred to “remarks made by me in the heat and dust of the election campaign” in the opening sentence of his letter of apology.
Fresh footage aired by 24Ghanta today showed Paul saying in Gopinathpur: “As long as Tapas Paul stands by your side, no one will let off these CPM people. And let me say one thing to the women, you should use your knives to slash their throats. Use your knives to slash their throats. Why haven’t you done it till now? Don’t you know how to use a knife?
“…And if I can, I will shoot them with a gun. I will shoot them in front of everyone.... Kill two to four people and show me.... Cut off their legs, and then come to me. Kill them with an axe and prove yourself. Then I will see who dares to arrest you....”