Dockland shooting fells city cop
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Twenty-eight years after IPS officer Vinod Mehta and his bodyguard were trapped and killed in the maze of lanes in Garden Reach close to the Kolkata docks, another policeman was shot dead in the criminal-dominated area on Tuesday, allegedly by a man patronised by local councillors of the Trinamool Congress.
Garden Reach, where firearms and bombs rule, is part of the assembly constituency of the powerful state Urban Development Minister Firad Hakim, who is often seen as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's No. 2. Local Trinamool leaders were present at the time of the shooting.
Assistant sub-inspector of police Tapash Choudhury was shot outside Harimohan Ghosh College, where groups of students from the Congress's Chhatra Praishad and the Trinamool's Trinamool Chhatra Parishad were clashing over the filing of nominations for the union elections.
ASI Choudhury was seen standing with other policemen close to the clashing groups before suddenly falling to the ground. His white uniform was seen rapidly turning red around the chest. He was rushed to hospital, where he was declared dead.
The election, which is believed to be almost a straight fight between the Congress and Trinamool bodies, is very important to Hakim. The Trinamool won last year, and would like to hold on to the union. The shooter's original target -- who escaped as Choudhury was hit -- could have been a Chhatra Parishad supporter who was being pushed to the ground by a throng of Trinamool workers at the moment of the firing, police said.
Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee said among the four people arrested was Sheikh Suhan, who had fired the shot. Asked for their political affiliation, Banerjee evaded a direct reply: "Whatever affiliations they have, they will be given exemplary punishment."
The home secretary said Choudhury's death could be the first killing of a policeman in Garden Reach since 1984, when Vinod Mehta and his bodyguard Mokhtar Ali were murdered.
Hakim, who was among the first to reach the spot after the killing, initially blamed the Congress and CPM, who he said were desperate to defeat the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad. He named one Mohammad Mokhtar -- a former CPM strongman who had shifted allegiance to the TMC-Congress after the assembly election, but had moved to the Congress after the TMC left the central government -- as the killer.
Within hours, however, as images taken by television news crews were seen and analysed, several local TMC leaders were spotted at the scene.
Among them was the TMC councillor of ward No. 134 and chaiman of borough 15, Mohammad Iqbal, who was accompanied by a large number of supporters, one of whom was seen running with a firearm and firing shots. Iqbal told The Indian Express: "I was present at the spot to oversee the election process and to maintain peace."
Ranjit Sil, councillor of ward No. 133, was the Trinamool in-charge for the union election. Sil's son Avijit, a TMCP supporter, was injured after bombs went off late Monday night in an under-construction building in the area, police sources said. The bombs, the sources said, were being made in preparation for the election.
Ranjit Sil, who is also a member of the governing body of the college, said: "My son was injured in a bomb attack by the rival camp last night, and is now admitted in SSKM Hospital. There has been tension for the last three days. As many as 156 nomination forms have been taken for the 29 seats."
Police sources said the alleged assailant, Sheikh Suhan, was caught by policemen at the spot immediately after the firing. TMCP cadres had, however, snatched and taken him away. Suhan surrendered in the evening, apparently after a message was sent out by the ruling party.
The three men arrested with Suhan have been identified as Gulam Talib alias Aftab, Mohammad Abne Soud and Abdul Matin alias Raju. All are residents of Garden Reach and known criminals who are seen in the local Trinamool office of Mohammad Iqbal, police and local sources said.
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