In the darkness of Sunday midnight, a few hours before the panchayat polls, residents of Jamtala, in the Kultali police station area, stopped two luxury buses with more than 100 passengers inside. “We are polling staff from Calcutta” was the reply offered when questions were raised about their identity.
Sensing trouble, the residents informed local MLA Probodh Purkait (SUCI). Purkait proceeded to Kultali police station, but was not entertained. Instead, the police escorted the buses to an undisclosed destination. A few hours later, there was bloodshed in the area, and two women — Marijina Bewa and Madina Bibi — were left dead.
While rural Bengal bled during the panchayat polls, Calcutta saw a sharp drop in its crime rate. There has been no report of burglary, robbery or rioting in the past four days. “The city is peaceful and no report of violence from any corner of the city has reached our control room,” said K.L. Tamta, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters).
The peace is expected to hold for a few more days, if the Intelligence Branch (IB) is to be believed. The criminals will camp in the villages for the next few days, till the poll fall-out dies down. “They will be protecting their leaders there,” said an IB officer.
Sleuths claim the exodus of criminals in the event of the panchayat polls has resulted in a drop in city crime. “Political parties deployed the henchmen of Gopal Tiwari, Sanjoy Sonkar, Ullu Raju, Hatkata Kalua and Goldy, crimelords of Tangra, Burrabazar, Chitpur and Cossipore. The gangs of Swapan and Sridhar were assigned in the rural areas of South 24-Parganas,” according to an official of detective department.
IB officials were aware of the deployment. “Our report, prepared much before the polls, shows that at least 7,000 hoodlums were netted across the state. We suggested that the district administrations monitor the entry and exit points, but they did not do so,” said an official.
Basudeb Bag, North 24-Parganas superintendent of police, admitted that criminals had sneaked into the district a few hours before the polls. “Palash, who operates in the Salt Lake- Lake Town belt, has brought in his men and we are trying to track him down,” Bag added.