CBI Should Use The Court-Mandated Probe Into Bengal’s Post-Poll Violence To Salvage Its Reputation In The State

Jaideep Mazumdar

Aug 24, 2021, 06:54 PM | Updated 07:13 PM IST

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee
  • This CBI probe should not go the way of its other probes in Bengal. This is a golden opportunity for the CBI to salvage its reputation.
  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has commenced its investigations into the scores of rapes and murders of BJP workers and supporters allegedly committed by Trinamool cadre after the declaration of the Assembly election results in early May.

    The probe was ordered by a division bench of the Calcutta High Court last week, and the CBI immediately launched preparations to investigate all the murders and rapes.

    The central investigative agency formed four teams headed by joint directors Ramnish, Anurag, Vineet Vinayak and Sampat Meena. Each team will have seven members, including one officer of the rank of a DIG and three of the rank of Superintendent of Police (SP).

    The entire probe will be closely monitored by CBI additional director Ajay Bhatnagar. A day after the Calcutta High Court ordered the probe, the CBI sent a missive to the Bengal police chief asking for all case files on murders, attempted murders, rapes and molestations after the declaration of Assembly results.

    According to this news report, the CBI has divided the state into four zones—north, south, west and east Kolkata—that will be assigned to each team. A welcome development is that a separate FIR will be registered into each allegation of rape, molestation, murder and attempt to murder instead of clubbing them all as under one FIR.

    The CBI launched its investigation on Monday (23 August) by visiting the house of Abhijit Sarkar, a leader of the BJP-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Trade Union Council, who was brutally murdered in full public view on 2 May.

    Sarkar was dragged out of his house in Kolkata's Narkeldanga area soon on the evening of 2 May, brutally assaulted and then strangled to death by Trinamool gangsters. Sarkar was one of the 42 BJP workers who have been killed by Trinamool gangsters since the declaration of Assembly election results on 2 May.

    All this is to say that the CBI probe has got off to a good start. Just as other CBI probes into various crimes, including financial scams in Bengal, had also gotten off to good starts.

    Unfortunately, the CBI has had little progress to show as far as many other probes in Bengal are concerned.

    The CBI has, over the past ten years, arrested many—including Trinamool Congress leaders and those with close links to that party—during the course of its probes.

    But in most of those cases, the CBI has not submitted any charge sheets and even when it has, the cases have not progressed in the CBI courts.

    This has severely tarnished the reputation of the CBI in Bengal, and the agency is widely perceived to be a tool in the hands of the union government to harass the Trinamool.

    Take the CBI probe into the Saradha scam where an estimated 25 lakh people of Bengal, Assam and Odisha were defrauded of about Rs 30,000 crore. Many bureaucrats, cops, journalists and politicians belonging to the Trinamool Congress were suspected to have been involved in this and similar ponzi scams (including the Rose Valley scam).

    The Supreme Court asked the CBI to investigate the Saradha scam in May 2014. The CBI lodged 46 FIRs related to cheating, criminal breach of trust and conspiracy within days of taking over the probe and arrested a few Trinamool leaders, including present Trinamool spokesperson Kunal Ghosh, Lok Sabha MP Sudip Bandopadhyay and MP late Tapas Pal.

    Trinamool leaders Mukul Roy (he joined the BJP but has since returned to the Trinamool) and Suvendu Adhikary (who is now with the BJP) were also named as alleged beneficiaries of the scam.

    There were rumours that even Mamata Banerjee would be summoned for questioning because Saradha ponzi firm owner Sudipta Paul had reportedly purchased her paintings for astronomical sums.

    The CBI filed the first charge sheet in October 2014, after which it filed a series of charge sheets in November 2014, April 2015, August 2015 and December 2015. The final charge sheet filed in April 2016 had named these several "prominent" and "influential" people of Bengal.

    But even five years since then, the case has not progressed in the CBI designated court. The process of hearing of the cases, examination and cross-examination of witnesses and other matters were expected to be fast-tracked.

    But that has not happened and it is widely believed that the entire case has been put in cold storage because of 'political reasons'.

    The CBI's recent conduct in the Narada sting operation case where it arrested top Trinamool leaders Firad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee and Madan Mitra (and also Kolkata's former mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay who had left the Trinamool to join the BJP but disassociated himself from the saffron party earlier this year) a few days after the declaration of Assembly election results severely eroded its credibility.

    The CBI, by its own admission, had finalised the charge sheet. Legal experts say that there is no justification for arresting a person named in the final charge sheet since the investigation process is over by then.

    The arrests of the Trinamool leaders (in the Narada case) are widely perceived to have been carried out by the CBI at the behest of the Union Government and were politically motivated.

    Other Central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED) are also probing a few cases, including the illegal coal mining scam. The CBI is also probing this scam. Here too, the conduct of these agencies has drawn flak.

    The ED, for instance, linked Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek to the scam when Bengal was in the midst of polls in early April. In February, the CBI questioned Abhishek Banerjee's wife Rujira and her sister in this case.

    But the agencies have no results to show for all their investigations and allegations till now. That is why Mamata Banerjee's charge that the central agencies are being used by the BJP government at the centre to browbeat the Trinamool and settle political scores finds wide resonance in Bengal.

    The credibility of the CBI and central agencies like the ED have hit a low in Bengal, and they are widely perceived to be tools used by the union government for political purposes.

    The CBI, thus, has a great opportunity now to investigate the murders, attempted murders, rapes and crimes against women committed by alleged Trinamool members and supporters after 2 May very transparently, thoroughly and quickly.

    The High Court has asked the state government to extend all help to the CBI and warned that any lapse on the part of the state government would be viewed very seriously. The CBI, thus, won't be able to offer 'non-cooperation on the past of Bengal police' as an excuse to delay the completion of the probe.

    Also, the CBI should not only investigate and name those responsible for the ghastly crimes, but should also probe and expose the larger conspiracy behind these crimes against BJP workers and supporters.

    Those responsible for the violence would not have acted on their own and would have, for sure, received instructions from higher-ups to attack BJP workers and supporters. Getting the culprits to confess and name these higher-ups ought to be the CBI's objective.

    This CBI probe should not go the way of its other probes in Bengal. This is a golden opportunity for the CBI to salvage its reputation.

    Thousands of victims of Trinamool's politics of hate are pinning their hopes on the central agency. The CBI cannot afford to let them down for its own sake.

    Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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