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Glare on go-slow in murder probe
Hooch crusader family cries bias

The family of murdered college student and anti-hooch crusader Sourav Chowdhury has accused police of treating those protesting the crime as the guilty party instead of trying to arrest the “Trinamul man” identified as the mastermind.

“The police have done little to arrest Shyamal Karmakar and his associates because he enjoys the patronage of the ruling party,” Sandip, elder brother of the slain youth, said on Sunday.

Sourav, 21, had been the face of protests against hooch dens and alleged harassment of women at Bamangachhi in North 24-Parganas. He was reported missing after watching a World Cup match in a local club on Friday night and his beheaded and dismembered body was found beside the rail tracks near Barasat on Saturday morning.

Prime accused Shyamal, 36, allegedly got Sourav killed because he was a thorn in his hooch business in Kulberia village, around 30km from Calcutta. He is absconding, as are two of his associates, Samir Mukherjee and Lyton. Anup Talukdar, another co-accused in the murder, was the only one to be arrested in the case till late on Sunday.

“There is trouble in the area with residents ransacking houses. So we have had to deploy our force in Bamangachhi and also ensure there is no fresh agitation or rail blockade,” an officer at Duttapukur police station said. “We haven’t made much progress in the investigation because we first need to enforce law and order,” he said.

Bhaskar Mukherjee, additional superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas, said the manhunt for Shyamal was underway. “We have already raided three places in search of Shyamal but he was not there. The search is on.”

Duttapukur police station police station has 60 personnel, around 50 of whom were on “law and order duty” in the area throughout Sunday, sources said.

A 150-strong mob had ransacked the house of Polly Maity, Shyamal’s sister, at Chhoto Jagulia around 9am. “I asked someone what the matter was and he said the raid was based on information that Shyamal was in hiding there,” said Swapan Mirdha, a neighbour of the Maity family.

The mob also ransacked the house of co-accused Samir, located barely 200 metres from Sourav’s house.

“Shyamal would stock bombs and weapons in these two houses, so we raided both. The police are doing nothing,” said Ajit Das, a resident of the area.

Sources close to Sourav’s family said the police’s attitude had changed over the past 48 hours because of political pressure.

“Officers from Duttapukur police station were helpful until Friday midnight. From Saturday, their behaviour completely changed. The same officer who was with us till midnight on Friday started accusing us of creating a law and order problem in the area. It is evident that somebody asked the police not to cooperate with us,” said Sekhar Mazumdar, a friend of the slain youth.

Sourav’s family members alleged that the police tried to misguide them about the post-mortem.

Elder brother Sandip said senior officers had initially asked him to visit the Government Railway Police station at Bongaon by 10am for the post-mortem formalities.

“We were crossing Habra when we received a call from the same person who had asked us to wait at Jaleswar in Habra for further instructions. When nobody called us after we had waited for over 20 minutes, I contacted the person again and was asked to visit the Barasat GRP. We decided not to listen to him and went to NRS Medical College and Hospital directly,” said Sandip, who reached the hospital at 1.10pm.

Sourav’s father Saroj Chowdhury, a clerk with the Geological Survey of India and the secretary of the BJP’s Kulberia unit, had named Shyamal, Samir, Lyton and Anup in his complaint with Duttapukur police station.

State BJP president Rahul Sinha and magician PC Sorcar Jr, who was the party’s Lok Sabha candidate for the Barasat seat, had visited Sourav’s house earlier in the day. Sinha had also gone to NRS Medical College, where the post-mortem was done.

Residents of the area barred the Riju Ghoshal, who was the Congress candidate for Barasat in the polls, and a CPM delegation from the murdered student’s house.

Left Front chairman Biman Bose condemned the incident in an official statement and demanded the immediate arrest of those involved in it. “Efforts of the Trinamul government to lessen the gravity of such a heinous crime by not arresting those involved are also condemnable beyond words,” he said. “We apprehend there will be a recurrence of such murders because of the manner in which a section of policemen has become stooges of the Trinamul Congress-led government.”

Investigators said at least two other persons might have been involved in the murder.

Sourav’s friends told the police that they saw Shyamal and his associates summoning him when he stepped out of a local club after watching the World Cup match between Germany and France on Friday night. “It seems there were at least six persons involved in the crime,” an officer said.

Sourav’s body was brought to his Kulberia house from NRS around 8pm on Sunday. A large crowd milled in front of the single-storey house as family members and friends waited for their turn to get a last glimpse of the youth before the body was taken away for cremation.

The neighbourhood had been restive since Sourav’s body was found on Saturday. On Sunday, the main market and many other shops in the area was closed in response to a 24-hour bandh called by the BJP in Bamangachhi to protest the murder.

The day also saw a group of residents forming the Bamangachhi Pratibadi Mancha, a forum to fight the spurt in crime in the area.