Constable Samarendra Samanta’s mother Gita Samanta places flowers on the body of her son at the Railway Protection Force training centre in Malda town on Tuesday. Picture by Surajit Roy
Malda, May 26: Samarendra Samanta, the Railway Protection Force constable, had died of a gunshot wound after a bullet pierced his left chin and exited from the skull, it emerged today.
In the immediate aftermath of the 35-year-old constable's death yesterday, it was assumed that he succumbed to injuries suffered while being assaulted by intruders said to be hawkers protesting against eviction from the Malda town railway station.
It was not clear till this evening who had opened fire and from which weapon the shot originated, especially since the bullet had not been found.
Officials said the nature of the wound suggested a round from an automatic weapon, which raises the possibility that the shot could have been fired from a rifle of a jawan during a scuffle or someone might have snatched a firearm and opened fire on the constable.
The possibility that an intruder might have sneaked in a less sophisticated firearm and used it has also not been ruled out since close-range firing could sometimes leave behind wounds similar to that caused by automatic weapons.
However, the fundamental nature of the crime has so far not changed. The constable was killed on RPF premises, which means that had the hawkers not allegedly stormed the camp, the tragedy would not have occurred in the first place - either because of an accidental shot or because of deliberate action intended at causing grievous harm.
The post-mortem was conducted in Malda Medical College Hospital by a team of three doctors led by Asutosh Sarkar, the head of the department of anatomy. A doctor of the medical college, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the cause of death was the bullet injury.
"The injury caused was from a high-powered firearm. The shot was fired from close range and the bullet caused an exit wound of six-inch diameter at the back of the skull. The bullet wound seems to be caused by an assault rifle," the doctor said.
A police officer in Malda said there were reports that Samanta was carrying his firearm when the hawkers attacked him. "Some of the attackers may have snatched the gun and fired at him. We are yet to know about the whereabouts of his firearm," the officer said.
Later, Malda police superintendent Prasun Banerjee said: "We are not yet certain about who fired the shot that killed the RPF jawan."
He said the post-mortem showed that "the cause of death is due to firing. The nature of the wound suggests that the bullet was fired from an automatic weapon, like an Insas rifle.... Our additional police superintendent, Abhishek Modi, is carrying out the investigation. The RPF has filed a complaint naming two persons with Englishbazar police on Monday night. We are investigating the matter. No one has been arrested so far."
One of the weapons that the RPF uses is the Insas rifle, but no conclusion could be reached immediately about the weapon.
Yesterday, around 300 suspected hawkers had attacked the RPF camp in Malda town station after the force tried to evict illegal vendors from the platforms. At the time the hawkers stormed the RPF camp, six to seven jawans were present.
S.S. Tewari, the RPF commandant in Malda, had said yesterday that the jawans had fired in the air to disperse the crowd. Today, he iterated that "our jawans fired in the air. We are still not clear how Samanta was shot." He said the RPF personnel fired outside the camp while driving away the hawkers.
The RPF has filed a complaint against Sutapa Mukherjee, the defeated BJP candidate of Ward 26 of the Englishbazar municipality, and Subodh Chandra, a leader of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh that sometimes leans towards the BJP. The complaint said the two had provoked yesterday's attack.
Malda BJP president Shibendu Shekhar Roy said the charges against Mukherjee and Chandra had been trumped up. "Neither Sutapa Mukherjee nor Subodh Chandra had anything to do with yesterday's incident. Neither was present at the spot.... Even the hawkers are not to blame. The attack was carried out by criminals who were outsiders," Roy said.
Attempts to contact Mukherjee and Chandra proved futile as their mobile phones were switched off.
An officer said: "Both of them have been named on the basis of accounts by eyewitnesses' who said they were on the spot when the incident happened."
The officer added: "As far as arresting the attackers is concerned, we have come to know that though there were around 300 hawkers on the spot, only 10 to 15 men attacked the RPF constable. We are using our sources to identify these people."