Police on Tuesday started a murder case against CBI officers on the basis of a complaint from the wife of Bara Lalon Sheikh, one of the prime accused in the March 21 Bogtui carnage who died in the central agency’s custody on Monday.
Lalon, arrested on December 4, was allegedly found hanging in a bathroom at the CBI camp office on the outskirts of Rampurhat in Birbhum. Lalon’s family has accused the CBI of “murdering” him, while agency officers have claimed suicide.
“We have started a murder case following a complaint lodged on Tuesday by the wife (Reshma Biwi) of the person who died in CBI custody. A probe has been started,” Birbhum police chief Nagendra Nath Tripathi said hours before the case was handed over to the CID.
The complainant has accused CBI officers Vilas Mhadgut, Bhaskar Mondal and Rahul (whose surname has not been mentioned) of murdering Lalon. Reshma has accused CBI officers Sushanta Bhattacharya (the investigating officer in a cattle-smuggling case), Swarup Dey, the “SP CBI” and the “DIG CBI” of being conspirators.
A senior CBI officer said: “Clearly, a bigger force is instigating Lalon’s wife to target the CBI. Otherwise, it would have been impossible for her to get the names of so many officers, including those not associated with the Bogtui case.”
Lalon’s family and over 300 local people on Tuesday blocked the main gate of the CBI’s camp office for hours. They also blocked NH14 demanding the arrest of the CBI officers accused by Reshma. Senior CBI officers confined themselves inside the camp office for hours.
Ten people were killed in Bogtui following the murder of Bhadu Sheikh, Trinamul deputy chief of the local Barshal gram panchayat, in what is believed to be intra-Trinamul rivalry. Police sources said a five-member CID team arrived in Rampurhat on Tuesday morning to oversee the investigation and the post-mortem on Lalon’s body.
Reshma has accused the CBI of torturing her husband mentally and physically to try and get him to spill some “big names” in connection with the case. She has accused the CBI of murdering Lalon on the instructions of senior agency officers. “My husband told me he had heard senior CBI officers like the SP and the DIG directing sleuths over the phone to torture him till he gave up the names of a few ‘big persons’ so they could be falsely implicated in the case,” Reshma wrote in her complaint.
Reshma alleged that a few CBI officers had demanded Rs 50 lakh to keep the family out of the Bogtui probe. Police sources said that apart from murder, they were looking into other allegations including custody torture, extortion and criminal conspiracy. “The police can arrest anyone accused of murder. However, as the accused are from an investigating agency, they will first try to find out whether the murder charge is right,” a senior police officer told The Telegraph.
Reshma’s complaint says a CBI officer had called her on Sunday morning and threatened to harm Lalon if she did not turn over a CCTV camera by Monday morning. The CBI has been on the hunt for the CCTV hard disk that it believes would provide vital clues to crack the carnage.
The CCTV had been installed outside Lalon’s home and pointed in the direction where houses were set on fire in Bogtui on March 21 night. Two additional CRPF companies were deployed at the CBI camp office on Tuesday morning and a large police contingent was rushed in when a mob tried to storm the camp office.
As a CBI convoy ferrying an accused to court tried to move out of the camp office, Lalon’s family members threw themselves before the cars. The police had to intervene to get the cars past the protesters.
Reshma declared she would not receive her husband’s body till the CBI sleuths named in her complaint were arrested. The additional chief judicial magistrate of Rampurhat has ordered a judicial probe into Lalon’s death.
A division bench of Calcutta High Court, headed by Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava, permitted Calcutta resident Badrul Ahmed to move a petition demanding a probe into Lalon’s death. The petition is likely to be filed on Wednesday.