| Purkait marching to court. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Calcutta, Aug. 19: Convicted in two murders, a politician of a relatively small party today virtually held South Calcutta hostage for nearly four hours as he marched with supporters in a huge procession from the Ballygunge station to surrender before the Alipore court.
Prabodh Purkait, an MLA of the Socialist Unity Centre of India, staged a slogan-shouting and fist-shaking spectacle along the 10-km route to the court where he surrendered in compliance with an order of Calcutta High Court. The court has sentenced him to life imprisonment for his involvement in two murders 20 years ago.
This is the first time in the history of the Bengal Assembly that a sitting MLA has been sentenced to life imprisonment. He will cease to be a member of the House after governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi gives his nod.
Purkait is an MLA for nine terms from Kultali ' a small rural constituency in South 24-Parganas, nearly 120 km from Calcutta. Clad in a sleeveless shirt and black trousers, Purkait walked the entire stretch under a large party flag, the rakhi on his left wrist gleaming in the sunlight.
The legislator surrendered before additional district judge Debi Prasad Mullick, who sent him to Alipur central jail.
The SUCI leadership apparently structured the traffic-stopping spectacle to buttress the planned appeal before the Supreme Court. The rally, which threw peak-hour traffic out of gear across the city, was also meant to send a signal to his constituency which has remained beyond the CPM's influence.
However, the manner in which the SUCI today turned the MLA's jail sentence into a spectacle raised the eyebrows of mainline political parties.
'Instead of turning it into a celebratory event, they (the SUCI leaders) should have concentrated on highlighting their sentiments on a political plane,' said state Congress working president Pradip Bhattacharya. 'This shows up political parties in a poor light.'
Purkait was awarded a life sentence on July 20 this year for murdering two persons on January 15, 1985. A mob, led by Purkait and other SUCI supporters, had murdered Abdur Rahaman Laskar and Abdur Rahaman Molla of Radhaballavpur village at Kultali.
The high court set aside the acquittal of Purkait and Harisadhan Mali, Iran Molla, Aniruddha Halder and Bashinath Gayen by a sessions court in 1997.