The ruling Trinamool Congress, and the Bengal government, are trying every trick in the book to obstruct the ongoing probes by the CBI and the ED into the multi-crore cattle smuggling scam.
Two recent actions by the Trinamool and the state’s subservient police that have been over-eager to please its political masters amply prove this.
The First Instance
The first relates to the horrific massacre of nine persons, including women and children, in retaliation for the murder of a Trinamool functionary--Badu Sheikh--at Bogtui village in Birbhum district on 21 March this year. The Calcutta High Court asked the CBI to probe the massacre.
The prime accused in the case--Lalan Sheikh--was arrested by the CBI after an eight-month-long search earlier this month. He was believed to have masterminded and carried out the massacre at Bogtui to avenge the murder of Badu Sheikh.
Lalan, who was also reportedly associated with the Trinamool, allegedly committed suicide in CBI custody on 12 December. Lalan is said to have hung himself inside the washroom of the CBI camp office at Rampurhat in Birbhum district.
This alleged suicide provided the state police and the Trinamool an opportunity to try to derail the CBI probe into the cattle smuggling scam that has ensnared Anubrata Mondol, a very close associate of Trinamool chairperson Mamata Banerjee.
The arrest of Mondol by the CBI on 11 August this year had evoked howls of protest from the Trinamool and Mamata Banerjee had also rushed to his defence. Banerjee has, as recently as two weeks ago, claimed that Mondol was innocent.
But recoveries of assets worth hundreds of crores of Rupees in the name of Mondol, who was a mere fishmonger till a few years ago, and his relatives and associates by the CBI has left the Trinamool and its leadership severely embarrassed.
Mondol, who has been accused by the Trinamool’s political opponents of leading the ruling party’s army of musclemen and masterminding attacks on functionaries and supporters of Opposition parties, is Trinamool’s prized asset.
Mondol is privy to a lot of confidential information about the party’s top leadership, which is wary of him turning rogue and spilling the beans. That is why the Trinamool is keen to get him off the CBI’s hook.
Immediately after Lalan Sheikh’s alleged suicide, the state police got into the act of allegedly intimidating the CBI and implicating CBI officers on false charges.
The state government asked the CID to probe Lalan Sheikh’s death based on a complaint filed by the deceased’s widow Reshma Bibi.
Bibi, in her FIR, named two senior CBI officers, including a deputy inspector general (DIG) and a superintendent of police (SP), for being responsible for the custodial death of her husband. She also named the investigating officer (IO) in the cattle smuggling case, Sushanta Bhattacharya, in her FIR.
Bibi alleged in her police complaint that her husband had told her that the DIG, SP and Susanta Bhattacharya were directing the CBI officials in the Rampurhat camp office of the agency (where Lala Sheikh was lodged after his arrest) to torture him untill he implicated senior Trinamool leaders for the Bogtui massacre.
Reshma Bibi alleged in a second complaint to the police that many valuable articles went missing from her residence that was sealed by the central agency.
“These are patently false complaints and it is very apparent that the complainant (Reshma Bibi) was tutored and told to name senior CBI officers in the FIR she lodged with the police.
"There is no way she could have known the names of the two senior officers (the DIG and the SP) or the name of Susanta Bhattacharya who is the IO in the completely unrelated cattle smuggling case. Bhattacharya never even spoke to Lalan Sheikh, leave aside interrogating him,” a CBI officer told Swarajya.
The promptness of the Bengal Police in accepting Reshma Bibi’s complaint in which she named seven CBI officers for her husband’s death and retaining the names of the CBI officers in its FIR is “evidence enough of the state police’s dishonourable intentions”.
“No fair investigator or agency will accept a complaint that tries to implicate officers of a probe agency in such a blatant manner. It is very apparent even to a lay man that the complaint is motivated and there are other forces at work here,” a DIG-rank officer of the CBI told Swarajya.
He added that the motive behind getting Reshma Bibi to falsely name the CBI officers for her husband’s death was to intimidate the central agency.
“The state police’s objective is to call the (CBI) officers for interrogation repeatedly and even arrest them. That would obviously demoralise the entire agency and make CBI officers reluctant to investigate cases in which Trinamool leaders are the accused,” said the officer.
CBI officers also suspect that the state CID, which is probing the alleged suicide, wanted to get hold of documents and case files of the cattle smuggling case that had been kept in the agency’s Rampurhat camp office. That’s why CID sleuths searched the office.
But CBI officers had foreseen this and removed all documents and case files pertaining to the cattle smuggling case and brought them to the regional office in Kolkata.
The Second Instance
The second instance of the state government’s attempt to thwart the probes by central agencies into the cattle smuggling case was the state police taking Mondol into its custody to prevent the Enforcement Directorate (ED) from taking him to New Delhi for interrogation.
Mondal has not been cooperating in the probe and has been evasive in answering queries posed to him by ED sleuths. He has also been misleading the ED about ownership of the properties linked to him.
That’s why the ED wanted to take him to Delhi for questioning. Mondol had been in judicial custody which, for all practical purposes, means state police custody since prisons are under the control of the state government.
That is why, feel ED officials, Mondol has not been cooperating with the probe. “He is assured of protection by the state government as long as he is in judicial custody. And he obviously feels safe and ‘powerful’ as long as he is in Bengal,” said an ED officer.
The ED had got a lot of information about the cattle smuggling scam from Mondol’s former police bodyguard Sagir Hussain.
“We could learn a lot from Hussain and gather a lot of evidence based on his confessions because we took him to Delhi for interrogation. That’s why we also wanted to take Mondol to Delhi for interrogation,” explained the ED officer.
The ED approached the Rouse Avenue Court in the national capital for permission to transfer Mondal to Delhi for interrogation. The court gave its permission to the ED Monday (19 December).
But immediately after the development in Delhi, a junior functionary of the Trinamool in Birbhum, one Shibthakur Mondol, lodged a police complaint against Anubrata Mondol on Monday itself.
Shibthakur, who does not enjoy a good reputation at Birbhum’s Dubrajpur where he stays, lodged a complaint at the Dubrajpur police station that Anubrata Mondol called him to his (Anubrata’s) office after last year’s Assembly polls and thrashed him.
Shibthakur alleged in his complaint to the police that he was planning to leave the Trinamool after last year’s Assembly polls and on hearing that, Anubrata called him to his office and tried to murder him.
Shibthakur also said that he was scared of approaching the police because Anubrata is a powerful person. He could muster courage to complain against Anubrata only now since the latter has been in custody since the last few months.
The Dubrajpur police acted promptly on the complaint and took Anubrata Mondol into custody. The police produced Anubrata before a local court Tuesday (20 December), which remanded the accused to a week’s police custody.
This effectively frustrated the ED’s plans to take Mondol to Delhi. “The complaint against Anubrata Mondol is obviously a false one and it was all orchestrated to stop us from taking the accused to Delhi,” said an ED officer.
The ED is planning to bide its time now. “Anubrata Mondol may have avoided custodial interrogation in Delhi for now, but he will not be able to evade it for long. Someday very soon we will bring him to Delhi and get answers from him,” the ED officer said.
The Trinamool’s, and the state government’s, efforts to frustrate the probe into the cattle smuggling scam by the CBI and the ED may not, however, bear fruit in the long run.
The two agencies are planning a series of measures, including obtaining judicial protection, to insulate the probes from interference or intimidation by the party and state machinery.
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