The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hero’s welcome to rape-and-loot suspect

Ranaghat, April 22: He was booked as one of the prime accused in the February 6 loot-and-rape outrage at Dhantola near here. But a bailed-free Subol Bagchi walked out of prison to a hero’s reception by thousands of banner-waving and hollering well-wishers.

Bagchi, a former local committee member of the CPM in Aranghata, was expelled from the party immediately after his arrest on February 7.

Immediately after his release, Bagchi said he was made a scapegoat by his detractors in the CPM. The alleged mastermind of the incidents of loot and rape of passengers of two buses returning from wedding receptions added that he was among the first to reach the site of the incident. “I was among the first to demand that the police get to the bottom of the crime and arrest the offenders”.

Bagchi’s clout in the area was apparent by the huge turnout today. ‘Traitors of the party must be booked’, ‘end dalal raj (rule of pimps) within the CPM’ and ‘book the actual Dhantola culprits’, read some of the banners jutting out of the crowd in front of the prison gate. Several members of the CPM’s local committee were also at hand to “receive” the expelled leader.

A local committee member of the Panikhali area pointed out that Bagchi was made a scapegoat because of the internal strife in the party set-up.

“Sanath Dhali and Subol had been working together, their sudden parting of ways affected the latter more. Dhali was very close to the party’s district power group,” said the local committee member who did not want to be named, said.

On February 6, the passengers of one of the buses that fell prey to the gang was returning from Dhali’s son’s wedding.

Not willing to incur the wrath of the Nadia district court, which granted him bail yesterday, Bagchi was guarded in his response to the cheering crowd and waiting newsmen.

He alleged that the police had tortured him in custody. But nothing more on that.

He was, however, willing to talk at length on what happened on the night of February 6. Bagchi said he was woken up by a panchayat member that night. He informed Bagchi of the looting of the two buses. “I rushed to the spot and came to know that a bus carrying guests from the wedding of Sanath Dhali’s son was attacked by a gang and women passengers were molested,” Bagchi said.

Calling Dhali a “close associate” and “friend”, Bagchi said he had no animosity with anyone in the CPM.

“I am a bachelor and party member, I will definitely ask the high command on what grounds I have been expelled. Is it because I was the only party member to reach the spot immediately after the incident and questioned the police inaction and threatened to gherao their station'” Bagchi asked.

He denied rumours that he would work for Opposition parties during the panchayat elections. “I am a communist and will continue to remain so,” Bagchi said.

The Congress saw a “total administrative and police failure” in Bagchi’s release on bail.

“The internal bickerings of the CPM resulted in Subol being made a scapegoat. The CPM has asked the police not to get hold of the real culprits as they are part of their poll machinery, they are also trying to utilise the arrest as a poll issue,” alleged Nadia district Congress president Shankar Singh.

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