|Adhir Chowdhury's convoy rolls into the court compound; the MP stepping out of the police van, looking for support. Pictures by Amit Datta
Behrampore, Nov. 28: Adhir Chowdhury was produced in court and remanded in jail custody, but Behrampore did not turn into a battlefield.
Police had thrown a cordon a kilometre off the chief judicial magistrate's court.
When the clock hands showed 11 this morning, a convoy of four prison vans and a police jeep, led by a red Maruti Gypsy, rolled into the compound.
A small group of people that had gathered at the far end of the premises held its breath in anticipation.
As the vehicles came to a halt, someone said: 'They are going to drag him out of the van in the middle.'
'No, no, he is in the last one,' said another.
As minutes went by, the crowd began to fidget. Where is he' Suddenly, around 11. 25, the stillness was broken ' by another convoy of prison vans and police jeeps.
All through his political life, the CPM's enemy No. 1 in Murshidabad had worked crowds. So, as Chowdhury stepped out of a prison van onto the sun-washed compound, he cried 'Vande mataram', expecting to hear the familiar roar echoing the call.
No one moved, not a voice was heard. Chowdhury gave another full-throated cry, 'Adhir Chowdhury ke greftar korey Congress ke domano jabena (it will not be possible to suppress the Congress by arresting Adhir Chowdhury)'.
The small crowd made up of lawyers, policemen and court employees looked at the Behrampore MP, arrested for involvement in a double murder.
Then, all of a sudden, a woman screamed 'Adhir Chowdhury zindabad'.
He waved back at the middle-aged woman. 'I am his fan and came here to have a look at him,' said Krishna Chakraborty, a Congress supporter from Lake Town in Calcutta.
She had talked her way through the security shield by brandishing her voter I-card and wearing a serious look.
Three lawyers led by Milan Mukherjee of Calcutta High Court were there to appear on behalf of the MP, but those belonging to the local court pleaded with them not to hold his brief today because of an ongoing boycott by members of the Behrampore Bar Council.
Chowdhury argued for himself. 'How is it possible that the FIR says that two people were shot dead but the police have not lodged any arms case. An accused, Tapan Basu, was arrested from a place called Bajarsow, 7 km from Behrampore. But the witnesses to the arrest are residents of Kada. How can that be' he asked.
A.K. Pal, the chief judicial magistrate, heard the MP plead for bail for about 40 minutes before remanding him in jail custody till December 3.
Chowdhury was arrested from his official residence in Delhi on November 19 in connection with the murders of Hanif Sheikh and his son Laltoo in July.
Behrampore wore a bandh-like look today as gun-toting policemen stood on guard. Tension mounted when a group-D employee of the court found a letter, from the CPI (Maoist), on Pal's desk. Addressed to judicial magistrate A.K.S. Mahapatra who remanded the MP in jail custody on November 20, it asked him to grant Chowdhury unconditional bail or face the consequences.
Unable to go anywhere near the court, about 30,000 Congress supporters assembled at three places on National Highway-34 on the outskirts of the town, throwing traffic out of gear for over four hours.