Time: 10.03 am.
Place: Intersection of Ganesh Chandra Avenue and Metcalfe Lane.
Finance minister Asim Dasgupta is on his way to office. Out of the blue, a brickbat hurled from the left lands on the windscreen of his car, smashing it. The car, with red light flashing, headed straight for Writers’ Buildings, screeches to a halt. So does the pilot jeep, a few feet ahead.
As the first Cabinet minister to be “attacked” on a city street, Dasgupta, accompanied by his wife, was taken completely off-guard. “But I did not lose my cool,” he later declared, adding that as the “official car does not have a bullet-proof windshield, it was badly damaged”.
On the spot, Dasgupta's security guard and policemen in the pilot jeep jumped out of their vehicles and scoured the Friday morning street. Who was it' Was it al Qaida, the ISI, or closer home, the KLO' The cops did not have a clue where the missile came from and who had ‘fired’ it. They asked around and carried out a swift on-the-spot survey but drew a blank.
The radio transmitter in the jeep crackled to life as frantic messages were fired across to Writers’ and Bowbazar police station. Dasgupta, meanwhile, sat and fretted in his car, as he had an “important meeting” to attend. “I soon sped off to Writers’ in the same car,” he said.
By then, the rumour mills were running wild. One source ‘confirmed’ that Dasgupta had managed to escape a deadly attack on his life by an international terror group, which had Dasgupta high on its hate list. In the state secretariat, the babus used this as their excuse of the moment to desert their desks and crowd the corridor to catch the latest update on the ‘terror’ attack.
Chief secretary S.N.Roy and other mandarins rushed to his chamber; Dasgupta telephoned a “concerned” police commissioner Sujoy Chakraborty and narrated the incident; Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee called up his finance minister to inquire what had happened. The police commissioner sent deputy commissioner, central, Zulfiquar Hasan, to the spot for an inquiry.
By the end of the day, the police had detained three residents of the area and pushed two possibilities. “The brickbat may have been hurled by someone on the road or in the only housing complex in the area, as it was too early for the offices to have opened,” said Hasan.
Asked whether he saw a ‘terrorist’ hand in the ‘attack’, Dasgupta said: “I have no view on the matter… The incident was upsetting and the necessary administrative measures are being taken.”