Three years ago, president of the Calcutta Fruit Merchants’ Association and sports-lover Haji Taj Mohammed, murdered on Wednesday night, had a close encounter with death.
Those who raided his office — presumably killers hired by a rival — mistakenly gunned down the guard.
But his luck ran out on Wednesday evening. The 50-year-old strongman of Mechhua’s falpatti (Calcutta’s fruits market), known for his proximity to the CPM and alleged links with the underworld, was repeatedly shot and stabbed at 8 pm by four youths.
They had barged into his office in the presence of his associates. The killers fled on a motorcycle.
State transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and Sunderbans affairs minister Kanti Ganguly, counted among his supporters, visited the office on Ballav Das Road soon after the murder.
As one of the bosses of Mohammedan Sporting Club and George Telegraph, Taj Mohammed was useful to the government.
On Friday, the 130-year-old-falpatti, the largest wholesale fruits market in eastern India, was closed in response to a strike called by the fruit merchants’ association to protest the murder.
The retail fruit markets in the city suffered and witnessed a price rise, as supplies were restricted. An estimated 500 lorries arrive at Mechhua from different parts of the country and transactions run into crores.
A police picket was posted at the market throughout the day. The police are still groping for leads. “We haven’t been able to arrest anybody so far. The murder could be a result of either business rivalry or personal rivalry,” said deputy commissioner of police, Zulfiquar Hasan.
During the course of the day, police learnt that Taj Mohammed, who was president-elect at falpatti for the past few years, had used his political connections to thwart any attempts to conduct a fresh election. He faced opposition from a group of people, who decided to conduct elections on their own.
Two months ago, an election was held, which was boycotted by Taj and his loyalists. In the past few months, Taj and his supporters and their rivals would clash quite often. But their political patrons would persuade them to sort out matters.