Calcutta, June 28: The face of the CPM’s Singur mobilisation has been arrested on the charge of masterminding the murder of Tapasi Malik, a rising voice against land acquisition for the Tata Motors small-car plant.
The arrest of Suhrid Dutta, the Singur zonal committee secretary of the CPM, has put the party in a flap as it had been distancing itself from a suspect arrested earlier, Debu Malik.
Suhrid has been the most visible CPM leader in Singur, who marshalled forces to collect consent letters and build the fence around the plant site at the height of the backlash.
The arrest was executed this evening after CBI sleuths interrogated Suhrid for over eight hours in phases.
Suhrid’s arrest came three days after the central agency arrested Debu from Tapasi’s Bajemelia village. Debu, a CPM supporter, aroused suspicion because he kept insisting on TV that it was a suicide.
“Suhrid has been arrested for Tapasi Malik’s murder. We have booked him under Section 302 of the IPC. He is one of the key conspirators,” said CBI officer A.K. Sahay. The agency is also on the lookout for four other suspects.
The 18-year-old Tapasi was raped and murdered on December 18. Her torso was charred and the body was found in a pit on the land fenced off for the Tata project.
The only daughter of Monoranjan Malik, a sharecropper and a fish trader, Tapasi was a member of the Save Farmland Committee.
CBI insiders claimed that Suhrid had hatched the plan to eliminate Tapasi as she was gaining popularity in Singur for her campaign against the land takeover.
Under his orders, Debu and four others had raped Tapasi and set her on fire, the CBI sources added. The claims have to be repeated on paper without the cover of anonymity for courts to take cognisance of them. Suhrid will be produced in court tomorrow.
The CBI had sent Debu to Delhi on June 18 for a polygraph test, which he failed. A few days later, he was arrested.
CBI officials said Debu had not only admitted his role in the murder but also mentioned the names of a few others, including that of his mentor Suhrid.
“In keeping with Debu’s statements, we had called five persons from Tapasi’s village — Dibakar Das, Dilip Malik, Joydeb Santra, Subodh Koley and Suhrid Dutta,” said a CBI officer.
While four were released around 5.30pm, the CBI detained Suhrid and continued with the interrogation till 7pm. He was formally arrested after a check-up in a hospital.
The sources said Suhrid was brought face to face with Debu — flown in from Delhi this morning — during the interrogation.
Mamata Banerjee, who had called a 48-hour bandh to protest against the murder but curtailed the strike to 24 hours, said today her charges of the CPM’s involvement had turned out to be true.
“I have always been talking about the CPM’s role in the rape and murder. The government tried to suppress the facts and tamper with the evidence. I am told that Debu used to stay in a CPM leader’s house,” she said.