The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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After Bhikhari, wife goes missing

Nine years after Bhikhari Paswan, a worker of Victoria Jute Mill, “disappeared”, Lalti Devi, his wife, reportedly went missing on Thursday night.

The 35-year-old woman, who, too, worked in Victoria Jute Mill, did not return to her Telinipara residence after the evening shift. Lalti’s mother-in-law, Ratna Devi, lodged an FIR with the Bhadreswar police station on Friday.

Lalti is a key witness in the case dealing with the disappearance of Paswan, who was allegedly taken into police custody and eventually killed.

According to sources, Paswan was rounded up from his residence by the district police on October 30, 1993, following the murder of a police constable. The district police reportedly interrogated and tortured him to “extract a confession in connection with the policeman’s murder”.

However, the local and the district police denied any knowledge about his arrest and simply started a “missing case”. The CBI later initiated a separate probe into the matter following an order from Calcutta High Court and cast doubts over the role of some district police officials as well as local policemen.

Lalti, the mother of a son born in 1993, got a job at the jute mill at the intervention of Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee when the CBI probe questioned the role of the district police.

Superintendent of Hooghly district police Ajoy Kumar said a five-member team, headed by district superintendent of police, District Enforcement Branch, Sushil Kumar Jha, has been formed to trace Lalti. “We have alerted all the adjoining police stations,” Kumar said.

A new dimension has been added to the woman’s “disappearance” with another jute mill worker Tarak Paswan also reported missing. Local police said Tarak and Lalti knew each other and might have left together.

Tarak’s family, however, has not lodged any missing diary. His wife, a mother of five children, declined to comment on her husband’s whereabouts.

Lalti Devi’s disappearance has created a stir in the political circles with Trinamul Congress MP from Serampore Akbar Ali Khondekar urging the police to trace her at the earliest. “She saw Bhikhari being forcibly taken away by the police. Her statement is crucial for the case as the police have failed to resolve the mystery surrounding Bhikhari’s disappearance,” he said.

Mamata, when contacted in Calcutta, expressed concern over the incident. “I am trying to find out the circumstances leading to her disappearance,” she said.

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