Santiniketan, April 5: The security personnel at Visva-Bharati today threatened not to cooperate with CBI sleuths after one of them was allegedly slapped while being questioned in connection with the Nobel medal heist.
The security personnel are up in arms against the manner in which the CBI is grilling them. “We were the first who demanded a CBI probe into the incident. We thought they were competent enough. But their style of investigation does not prove so. They have started behaving with us like local thana people,” complained Atanu Banerjee, one of the securitymen and the vice-president of Karmi Samiti, their union.
Around 12.30 pm, exactly 24 hours after the CBI officials detained him for interrogation, 58-year-old Katki Mahato walked out of Rabindra Bhavan, tears in eyes. He was allegedly slapped twice by the CBI officials who grilled him through the night about the theft of the Nobel medal and other Tagore memorabilia from the Rabindra Bhavan museum.
“They kept asking me three questions repeatedly. When I failed to answer any of them, they slapped me on the face. I lost sense. I came out running when they released me,” Katki said before heading towards the Pearson Memorial Hospital, Visva-Bharati University’s health clinic.
Katki was admitted to the hospital where doctors examined him and said his condition was stable. Two senior CBI officials later went there to enquire about him.
But as the news spread, at least 60 employees of the security department who were at the Rabindra Bhavan premises, waiting to be questioned, threatened the sleuths with non-cooperation “if you behave with us this way”.
Katki was picked up from Kala Bhavan around 12 noon yesterday and brought to the CBI’s makeshift office in the building that houses the museum. Three others were also interrogated but the sleuths released all of them in half an hour.
The elderly guard was detained longer as he was on night shift between March 23 and 25 — the period when the burglary is believed to have taken place.
“We were lined up to face examination. Suddenly, Katki came out of the room with tears in his eyes. He was so upset that he could not walk properly. When I asked him what happened, he broke down and said ‘ora amai char merechhe (they slapped me)’,” Banerjee said.
CBI officials, however, denied the charge. “All the security employees are giving us contradictory statements. But we never touched them,” said an official.
Minutes after the alleged incident, colleagues helped Katki board an ambulance. “I don’t know why they slapped me,” he said before stepping onto it.
“Katki is part of Visva-Bharati for more than four decades. He loves Rabindranath Tagore and his assets more than us. We never thought he would have to face this day,” said one of his colleagues.
CBI additional director Vijay Shankar, who reached Santiniketan this evening, asked two officers to see Katki at the hospital immediately after getting to know about the allegation.