Fugitive Trinamul councillor Sambhu Nath Kow
Fugitive Trinamul Congress councillor Sambhu Nath Kow, accused of murdering party colleague Adhir Maity on Wednesday, evaded arrest for the second consecutive day amid allegations that police launched the manhunt late.
The police raided several locations but failed to trace him until late on Thursday. His car, a Volkswagen Polo, was found abandoned at Kamardanga, a few kilometres from the murder site at Dhapa, off the EM Bypass.
The driver, whom the police have identified as Chima, is absconding too.
Kow, allegedly a toughie who owns several fisheries, stands accused of fatally injuring Maity during an altercation on Wednesday over a 16-cottah plot near the Bypass that is estimated to be worth Rs 10 crore.
Maity, a member of Trinamul’s ward 58 committee, had been opposing Kow’s alleged plan to use the plot to rehabilitate vendors blocking the expansion of a narrow road leading to a real estate project. Maity and some other local leaders apparently wanted to build a temple on a part of the plot, a Chinese burial ground that later became a cowshed.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee visited Maity’s house at Shitalapara, on Dhapa Road, on Thursday evening and handed a cheque for Rs 2 lakh to his widow Minu. She also promised jobs for Maity’s unemployed sons-in-law Shanti Bag, 27, and Shasti Maity, 33.
Mamata, who was accompanied by urban development minister Firhad Hakim, assured Minu that prime accused Sambhu Nath Kow would be arrested soon.
Sources said precious hours were lost before the manhunt for Kow, the second Trinamul councillor after Mohammad “Munna” Iqbal to go on the run after being accused of murder, began on Wednesday.
“The incident occurred around 9.30am but we started a full-fledged search for Kow only in the afternoon,” an officer said, suggesting that a nod from the political bosses was a prerequisite to going after a Trinamul leader.
Investigators quoted witnesses to the alleged murder as saying that Kow fled the site in a taxi, with his Polo trailing it. By the time the police raided Kow’s three-storey house at Hossainpur, near Kalikapur on the Bypass, their man and his family had bolted. The cops found the house locked.
Raids on a relative’s home in Mukundapur and two other houses — one in Dhakuria and the other in Tangra — also didn’t yield any clue to his whereabouts.
“We had information that he might be in a house belonging to one of his drivers. We raided two potential hideouts, only to learn that these drivers quit their jobs a year ago,” an officer said.
The police have hit a dead-end in tracing his mobile-phone tower location too. His phone has been switched off since Wednesday.
The official word is that the hunt for Kow was delayed because the police’s priority was to “restore law and order” in the area, close to real estate landmarks such as Active Acres and Silver Spring.