The inspector-in-charge of Duttapukur police station and another police officer were suspended on Monday within hours of chief minister Mamata Banerjee questioning the role of the IC in the wake of Sunday’s blast in an illegal fireworks unit in North 24-Parganas that left nine persons dead.
The partly charred unidentified body of the ninth victim was recovered from a bush near a pond in Mojpole-Paschimpara village of Duttapukur on Monday morning.
“What was the inspector-in-charge doing? Was he sleeping?” Mamata asked during a cabinet meeting, multiple sources present there said, quoting her.
Mamata raised the issue of the Duttapukur blast during the meeting although it was not on the scheduled list of topics for discussion, the sources added.
Later, addressing a student’s rally on the foundation day of the Trinamul Chhatra Parishad on Mayo Road in Calcutta, Mamata said a section of police were turning a blind eye to illegal activities, but not all of them. “Some are engaging in illegal activities and police are turning a blind eye. Not all of them, though,” she said.
“I will not say what is happening in a few police stations. Like an anti-ragging cell, I’ve also set up an anti-corruption cell. I’m keeping an eye on everything about who is doing what.”
While there was no mention of the blast here, several senior Trinamul leaders said it was evident that the party supremo was venting her frustration as Bengal home minister in the aftermath of Sunday’s explosion in Duttapukur, some 35km north of Calcutta.
On Sunday evening, the chief minister summoned Manoj Malaviya, the state’s director general of police, and Vineet Goyal, the commissioner of Calcutta police, for a meeting at her Kalighat residence.
A team of senior police officers led by Siddhi Nath Gupta, additional director general of police (South Bengal), reached Mojpole-Paschimpara village of Duttapukur on Monday morning.
Gupta met Bhaskar Mukherjee, the superintendent of police of the Barsat police division, and other senior officers before leading a raid that resulted in the arrest of Shafiqul Islam, allegedly one of the partners of the illegal fireworks factory and a close aide of Keramat Sheikh and Jerat (not Jiyat as reported earlier), who had rented a room in the house of Samsur Sheikh, where the blast occurred. Samsur was among the dead.
Keramat had been arrested in Duttapukur in May following a drive to recover illegal firecrackers in the aftermath of the Egra blast. He returned to business on getting bail, cops said. Both he and Jirat are absconding.
Raids at several places during the early hours of Monday morning including at least two stockyards of explosives allegedly owned by Sheikh Shahir Husain and Abdul Mahid, both reportedly local Trinamul activists.
“Police raids began only after several lives were lost in the blast. We tried drawing the attention of the cops on several occasions in the past but in vain,” said a resident of the Mojpole-Paschimpara village, refusing to be named. “Everything gets legalised here if you pay fees to the police,” the villager added.
A two-member National Investigation Agency (NIA) team visited the blast site. The BJP filed two separate cases in Calcutta High Court seeking CBI and NIA probes into the incident. The NIA officials spoke to senior state police officials and forensic experts.
Both the petitions alleged that the state police were trying to cover up the tracks of the accused since they were close to the ruling Trinamul Congress. These petitions are likely to come up for hearing before the high court division bench headed by Chief Justice T. S Sivagnanam on Tuesday.