Mafia slayings in Asansol Bike gang guns down three

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By OUR CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 3.06.11
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The under-construction building in which the murders took place and a spent bullet near the site in Asansol. Pictures by Gour Sharma

Asansol, June 2: A 15-member motorbike gang shot dead a realtor and two others barely 50 metres from the Asansol court today before a stunned noontime crowd, with police blaming the lightning strike on an interstate rivalry between coal mafias.

Responding fast to the first big crime under her watch, chief minister Mamata Banerjee got the police to seal the border to Jharkhand, from where the killers may have come, within an hour and detain a CPI councillor from Kulti.

Councillor Rohit Nunia is believed to be involved in coal smuggling, a police officer said, but a Left Front leader claimed that Asansol’s coal and iron-scrap thieves enjoy patronage from all political parties.

The killers parked their five motorbikes outside the upscale Asansol Club before walking into a nearby construction site off the Asansol Court More, which bustled with a crowd of shoppers, pedestrians, lawyers and their clients.

Minutes earlier, realtor Ram Lakshman Yadav, 45, had got off his white Hyundai Getz with his security guard and was talking to two associates on the ground floor of an under-construction, five-storey commercial-cum-residential complex.

The 15 youths appeared suddenly, each holding one revolver in either hand, eyewitnesses said. They called out Yadav’s name and began shooting. Within seconds, the realtor, guard Motilal Rajak, 45, and Mukesh Singh, 34, had slumped to the ground while the gang chased Kamalesh Singh, 30, to the basement.

“I saw about 15 youths firing. Yadav slumped on the ground covered in blood while Motilal fell on a heap of stone chips,” said the realtor’s driver Dilip Singh, who watched from the car, too afraid to step out.

“Kamalesh started running but the attackers chased him to the basement and shot him repeatedly.”

Mukesh is said to be stable at a private hospital in Durgapur; the other three were declared dead on arrival at an Asansol hospital. Yadav had been riddled with 10 bullets, sources said, and the other two slain men too had multiple wounds.

As the news reached Writers’ Buildings, Mamata went into a huddle with chief secretary Samar Ghosh, home secretary G.D. Gautama, director-general of police Naparajit Mukherjee and additional director-general (law and order) Surajit Kar Purakayastha.

“The area is close to Jharkhand and the police have been asked to seal the border,” Mamata later told reporters.

A senior officer said the border, 65km from Asansol, was closed by 1pm and the killers were unlikely to have reached it by then.

“There is a problem with the coal mafias who have enjoyed political patronage so far. We’ll not tolerate this nonsense,” Mamata said.

“The police have been asked to deal with the case with a strong hand. The criminals will be booked for sure; how far can they have run away? We’ll find them out. A red alert has been issued.”

Jagmohan, the deputy inspector-general (Burdwan range), said the slain realtor had two cases pending against him, one for possession of illegal arms in 1994 and the other for a murder attempt in 1999.

Another officer said three suspects had been detained, including CPI councillor Nunia from Kulti, a town 30km from Asansol and whose municipality is run by a Trinamul-Congress alliance.

“An attempt was made on Nunia’s life six months ago but he escaped unhurt. He was involved in smuggling coal out of the IISCO factory,” the officer added.

CPI state secretary Manju Majumdar said he had heard about Nunia’s detention and had sought a report from the party’s Burdwan unit.

Police sources said they were also looking for an Asansol lodge owner suspected of involvement in iron-scrap smuggling.

Apart from the court, the bungalows of the additional district magistrate and the additional district police chief are located near the triple-murder site.

Ujjwal Mondal, 40, the caretaker of an empty two-storey building nearby, said he sat on the balcony watching the killings, too frightened to raise the alarm. “Some of the attackers fled towards the club where they had parked their motorbikes and some others towards the IISCO plant, which is about 1.5km away.”

He said he came down only when the police arrived around 12.20pm. Soon, the area wore a deserted look with shopkeepers downing shutters.

Mamata has announced a Rs 2-lakh compensation for each of the dead.