Sourav Chowdhury's mother at their Kulberia home on Monday. Picture by Sanjib Chaki
A “confession” by one of four men arrested on Monday for the murder of anti-hooch campaigner Sourav Chowdhury armed police with sketchy details of a crime whose motive Kulberia knows about but they still don’t.
Tanmay Roy Chowdhury, superintendent of police of North 24-Parganas, said one of the arrested men had confessed to being part of “a group of nine” that strangled Sourav in Kulberia, around 30km from Calcutta, on Friday night and left him on the rail tracks.
“The preliminary post-mortem report suggests some ante-mortem and accidental injuries, which tallies with what the accused Tapan Biswas told us. But we have yet to ascertain the motive,” Roy Chowdhury said.
Tapan was arrested at Ghola, near Sodepur, early on Monday along with Suman Sarkar, Ratan Samaddar and Uttam Shikari. They are all residents of Sourav’s para, Nityananda Sarani, and aged between 25 and 30.
The four of them are known to be associates of prime accused Shyamal Karmakar, who allegedly ran the hooch dens against which Sourav had led a crusade. Sourav’s family has named him in their FIR as the prime accused and Uttam as a henchman.
The police arrested Shyamal’s elder sister Polly Maity, whose house a mob had ransacked on Sunday, late on Monday on charges of harbouring a murder accused.
While the police said Tapan’s version of how Sourav was killed tallied with where his body was found, railway officials said it did not appear to be a case of a train running over the 21-year-old.
Sourav’s body was found in nine pieces scattered across the rail tracks between Bamangachhi and Duttapukur stations early on Saturday.
“According to Tapan, he and the others had waited outside Sourav’s home till he returned there around 11.30pm on Friday after watching a World Cup match at a local club. Sourav was talking over his mobile phone when Shyamal Karmakar and four others called him aside,” officer Roy Chowdhury said.
One of Sourav’s friends had told the police that he saw Shyamal take Sourav aside on Friday night.
Quoting Tapan, the SP said Sourav was made to walk through the bylanes in the neighbourhood to reach a nail factory located near the rail tracks between Bamangachhi and Duttapukur stations.
“Apparently, Shyamal and Suman used a T-shirt to strangle Sourav while the rest pinned him down. As Sourav lost consciousness, they carried him near the rail tracks and pelted him with stone chips that struck his face and head. They saw a train approaching and left Sourav lying diagonally across the tracks and waited to see the train run over his body,” the officer said.
Tapan denied that any sharp weapon was used to kill Sourav, he said.
Railway officials said there was “no technical evidence” available with them to suggest that an unconscious or already dead Sourav was run over by a passing train.
“If a train driver or guard notices any human or animal being run over by the train, he immediately reports the incident over his walkie-talkie. The driver or the guard also reports the incident to the next station so that the body or corpse can be removed. In this case, there was no knock-down message from any train that day,” said an official at Duttapukur railway station.
Railway officials said the incident came to light between 5.30am and 6am on Saturday when some people of the neighbourhood spotted Sourav’s body and informed the gateman of gate No. 16 at a level crossing between Bamangachi and Duttapukur.
According to railway officials, none of the drivers or guards on trains that had taken the same tracks since morning reported “anything unusual”.
“The gateman’s observation after seeing the body was that it did not appear to have been run over by a train. A body run over by a train gets mutilated. In this case, the body parts appeared to have been chopped,” an official said.