Thank you for the visit, sir... - ...but what about cops & cash?

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By Staff Reporter in Calcutta
  • Published 13.10.07

Calcutta, Oct. 13: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee finally called on Rizwanur Rahman’s grieving mother today, carrying the burden of police complicity, money power and his own family’s outrage and sending a signal to his party which is apparently standing in the way of rapid action.

The visit on Id-eve threw up the inescapable parallel with the fabled mountain going to Mohammad but the scene outside the modest house on Tiljala Road was anything but symbolic. A huge crowd was waiting, waving black flags and shouting slogans against Bhattacharjee’s government. A large police contingent had to use nylon ropes to keep the surging protesters at bay although a few managed to bang their fists on the chief minister’s car.

Bhattacharjee told the family he was “convinced” that “money power” played a role in Lalbazar’s intervention in the marriage of Rizwanur and Priyanka, Rizwanur’s brother Rukbanur said.

If the CPM, wary of alienating a loyal and handy police force, is trying to stymie the chief minister’s efforts to ease out the accused officers, his reported comments to the family could be seen as an indirect appeal to the party to heed public demand.

Bhattacharjee promised the bereaved mother, Kishwar Jahan, the family would get justice. Trying to make it clear that this was not mere appeasement, he asked the Rahmans to “get in touch directly” with him if they felt the police were threatening them in any way or interfering in the judicial inquiry.

“He told us his wife and daughter, too, were convinced of the police’s involvement and had asked him to ensure punishment for the guilty,” Rukbanur said.

Minority affairs minister Abdus Sattar, who accompanied Bhattacharjee, said: “The chief minister said both he and his family were convinced of the role of the police. He said the entire country, the administration, the party and his family were watching and he was accountable to them all.”

At the end of the 35-minute, closed-door meeting inside a small, cramped room, the Rahmans said they were satisfied and willing to keep faith in the chief minister for now.

“He said he was personally looking into the matter and sought some time. But he gave no definite assurance about action against the officers. We are willing to wait,” Rukbanur said. “But we told him we are not giving up our demand for a CBI probe.”

Bhattacharjee’s convoy arrived from Alimuddin Street around 12.25pm and was received in a small field beside the Rahmans’ home by Sattar and CPM leader Rabin Deb, a former local MLA.

Guarded by heavy security, the chief minister walked through the crowd and entered the house. He settled on a sofa while Kishwar and Rukbanur sat on the bed. The others in the room were Rukbanur’s wife, uncle and sister as well as Sattar and Deb. “He held my mother’s hands and said softly, ‘Aami shob jaani (I know everything)’. She broke down,” Rukbanur said.

“I told the chief minister, ‘my son has been murdered, give me justice’,” Kishwar said, struggling to control her grief. “He assured me justice would be delivered.”

At one point, Bhattacharjee suddenly paused and asked her if she had faith in him. He added he wanted to wait for the judicial commission’s recommendations before acting.

When the family said they wanted the body exhumed and a second post-mortem done, Bhattacharjee promised to ensure exhumation the day after a magistrate issued an order.

Such court permission is necessary but is routinely given if the government makes a request, which it has not.

Around 1.05pm, Bhattacharjee walked out with his arms around the frail mother. Before stepping out of the gate, he held her hands. He appeared to say a few words before ending the visit with a namashkar.

Sattar said Bhattacharjee told the mother he never called anyone to his house, but had invited her so that everything could be discussed in a “homely atmosphere”. When she declined to come, he decided to go to her.