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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 39, September 18, 2010

Jnaneshwari Express Sabotage and Mass Murder Case

Why Umakanta Was Murdered In Cold Blood By The CPI-M’s Police

Monday 20 September 2010, by Dipak Kumar Ghosh

[(The following article appeared in Bengali in Dainik Statesman and was later rendered into English and sent to us by the author who has taken full respectively for its publication. His first article on the Jnaneshwari Express sabotage and mass murder case appeared in Mainstream (July 10, 2010).)]

Umakanta Mahato, the CID-CBI got-up game’s alleged mastermind of the Jnaneswari Express sabotage and mass murder case (May 27, 2010), was compelled to embrace death on August 26, 2010 midnight. The police knows very well that a dead man cannot speak, nor can he write a letter and send it outside the jail as was done by the CID-CBI got-up game’s alleged lieutenant of Umakanta and executor, Bapi Mahato, and a school student, Hiralal Mahato, who was arrested by the police on totally false charges when Hiralal’s father refused to shoot his son with a police gun, handed over to him by the police. Who is this Umakanta Mahato? What is his political standing? How could he become the alleged principal villain of the Jnaneswari Express sabotage and mass murder case?

A morrum (red soil) road starts from Debibanksole bus-stop on the NH-6 (Bombay Road) and ends at Kalaboni on the Jhargram-Lodhasuli road. Tapan Mantri, the former CPI-M Branch Secretary of Baghjhapa, his elder brother Gopal Mantri and Gopal’s son Rajib Mantri, all known CPI-M workers, were kidnapped from their house allegedly by the Maoists in the evening of August 26, 2010 and their dead bodies with one arrow jutting out from each body were found at Kalaboni. There were no Maoist posters as are generally left by the Maoists after every killing. No Maoist slogans were heard by the villagers. Maoists have never killed before by putting arrows in the body; they kill by shooting or by slitting the throat.

Six-to-seven hours after this incident, the police killed Umakanta by shooting him on the back from close range and left the body at Nadda of Parulia jungle near Mohonpur which is a few minutes walking distance from the house of Umakanta at village Banksole of Aguiboni gram panchayat of Jhargram block. Umakanta’s father Sambhunath’s house is about 10 minutes walking distance from the Debi Banksole bus stop on the NH-6. The village has no pucca house. Most of the houses have mud walls with old and broken asbestos on the roof. Sambhunath’s house is well maintained. Umakanta started bringing home bundles of currency notes during the last few years when, as a CPI-M activist, he used to receive shares of the subscriptions from the illegal sponge iron factory owners to keep the inspectors of the Pollution Control Board away. The major portion of the subscriptions would go to the party fund. The local leaders would share the rest.

Umakanta started having problems with the local leaders of the CPI-M over sharing of these subscriptions from the sponge iron factories. During the last panchayat elections in May 2008, he switched over to the Trinamul Congress which party has a roof but no walls or doors. Hence, anybody can walk into the party and can also walk out. Umakanta did exactly that. He walked out after a few months when the “Poolishi Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee” (People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities or PCAPA) was formed after the police atrocity on Santhal women at Chhotopelia village of Lalgarh P.S. in the early morning of November 6, 2008 following the mine-blast allegedly targeted at the convoy of the Chief Minister at Salboni. He became a local leader of the Committee and gradually became the Convenor of the Committee for Jhargram area. As the Committee became powerful in the jungles, he stopped the sponge iron factory owners from giving any fund to the CPI-M leaders. The leaders then started plotting to teach him a lesson and ultimately they have succeeded by using the police.

Dahareswar Sen, a CPI-M District Committee member, and Susanta Ghosh, a Minister from Garbeta of West Midnapore district, were given the job of causing a train accident a few days before the elections to 81 municipalities including Kolkata Corporation due on May 30, 2010 so that the Trinamul supremo’s reputation as the Railway Minister was badly damaged before the polls. The conspiracy was hatched at Alimuddin Street, the headquarters of the State CPI-M in Kolkata; otherwise huge flexi banners condemning the Railway Minister would not have been put up in many areas of the metropolis by 9 in the morning of May 28, the sabotage having become successful only about eight-nine hours earlier. This duo held meetings on May 26 and 27, 2010 at various places to finalise the scheme to cause derailment of the Jnaneswari Express by removing pendrol clips from the track on the 27th itself. (The details of these meetings and the names of the persons who attended these meetings and how the plan was executed at Sardiha that night have been given in my piece published in the Dainik Salesman in its issue published on June 8, 2010.) As a result of this sabotage, compartments No. 5, 6 and 7 of the Express train were derailed and rested on the down track when a running goods train rammed into them and killed 149 persons.

In each and every major criminal case in the past like the Bhikari Paswan abduction and murder case, the Chhoto Angaria mass murder case, the Rizwanur Rehman murder case, the Tapasi Malik rape and murder case in Singur and the Nandigram mass murder and mass rape case, the CBI did take nothing from the State CID which was earlier investigating each and every case. Except for the Tapasi Malik murder case, all the other three cases were handed over to the CBI by the Kolkata High Court on the basis of public interest litigations as the State Government was unwilling to hand over the cases to the CBI. Only in the case of Tapasi Malik, tremendous public pressure compelled the Chief Minister to agree to hand over the case to the CBI after about a month. Even then, the CID continued its own investigation for one more month and declared that Tapasi’s father had murdered her after getting into an illicit relationship with his daughter. However, the CBI found out the truth, charge-sheeted Suhrid Dutta, the Zonal Committee Secretary of the CPI-M, and Debu Malik, a CPI-M cadre, and the Court convicted both of them and sentenced them to life imprisonment. The Bhikari Paswan case is hanging fire in the Court for all these years. The Chhoto Angaria mass murder case ended in a charge-sheet against 12 CPI-M workers including two leaders. The Nandigram case is yet to be completely investigated.

However, it has been seen that when the former Police Commissioner of Kolkata, Prasun Mukherjee, got implicated in the Rizwanur Rahman murder case in August 2008 and the High Court ordered the CBI to take up the investigation, Mukherjee rushed to the CBI headquarters in New Delhi and ultimately his name was not included in the charge-sheet filed against two Deputy Commissioners and other police officers and Ashok Todi and his brother and others. The High Court has now directed the CBI to start fresh investigation on the basis of the FIR first filed by Rukbanur Rahman, the brother of Rizwanur, which proves that the High Court was not satisfied with the way in which Mukherjee got out of the CBI net.

It is not known if Mukherjee, whose son was reportedly engaged to the only daughter of the Chief Minister, has again pulled any string of the old boys’ network of the IPS officers to ensure that the CBI in the Jnaneswari case go strictly as per the advice of the CID officers of the State Government. The CBI officers entrusted with the very important case seem to be acting as per the script drawn up by the State CID who are in turn acting as advised by the CPI-M bosses. It is also not known if the Chief Minister has pulled any strings with the Union Home Minister who is not exactly enamoured with the Railway Minister as per newspaper reports.

Mukul Roy, the Union Shipping Minister of State, and Subhendu Adhikary, the firebrand youth leader and MP of the Trinamul Congress, held a meeting at Garbeta after almost 10 years since the CPI-M took the assistance of the long-range modern guns of the former Peoples’

War Group (PWG) to drive away the Trinamul Congress workers and supporters from Garbeta and adjacent areas starting from Chamkaitala in July 2000 after the Trinamul Congress wrested the Panskura Lok Sabha seat, a completely rural constituency, from the Left Front for the first time in 25 years. Dipak Sarkar, the CPI-M District Committee Secretary and Sushanta Ghosh, Minister, held a counter-meeting at the same place on the very next day and threatened to overrun Lalgarh within a few days. The CPI-M armed men, popularly known as Harmads, have set up camps of 50/60 armed persons each at about 80/90 places around Lalgarh P.S. such as Chandra, Dherua, Kankabati, Pirakata etc. Although the State DGP, Bhupinder Singh, has recently stated in New Delhi that he has no information about any such armed camp of the CPI-M, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has given written information to the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister containing details of such camps and is praying for action to dismantle these camps and recover all illegal arms and ammunitions.

LET us resume the case of Umakanta Mahato.

The photographs printed on the front page of every Kolkata daily (Bengali, English and Hindi) on August 28, 2010 clearly show that Umakanta was killed after his arrest. He could not be handed over to the CBI who wanted him desperately. The one earlier arrested, Bapi Mahato, has already denied his direct involvement in the Jnaneswari case. He has also sent out a handwritten and signed letter addressed to the people of West Bengal from his jail cell through a messenger, and this has been published in many dailies and also in some magazines, including Tehelka, giving details of the conspiracy hatched by the top
CPI-M leaders and how innocently some of them got distantly involved in the case. An arrested student, Hiralal Mahato, has also sent out a similar letter denying any involvement in the case. Umakanta was arrested and handed over to the CBI; he would have surely denied with facts and reasons any personal involvement in the case exposing the game of the CPI-M and the State CID. Hence, he had to die and the police killed him immediately after his capture.

The photographs of his dead body lying on a dirt-road track clearly shows that Umakanta was made to turn back before he was shot from point-blank range as per the standard practice of the police in such cases before killing the arrested person. His trousers were pulled down upto his ankles, the bermuda inside the trousers pulled down to expose the lower vest and the T-shirt was pulled up to expose his back. the photographs cannot lie. The police can and that is why the Indian Evidence Act has cautioned the judges against relying on uncorroborated evidence of any policeman. The CPI-M also can lie. The people of West Bengal have many such examples recently from their own Chief Minister and other Ministers during the Singur and Nandigram fiascos.

The police fabricated the story that Umakanta and other Maoists, after killing the three Mantris at Kalaboni the same evening, had come to the Nadda forest area for planning some more murders. The police got information and moved in from all directions. The Maoists first opened fire and the police retaliated. Umakanta tried to flee in his motorbike but was gunned down at about 1.30 am. The firing continued for more than five hours. When the police entered the jungle, they discovered the dead body. The police claimed that several more Maoists had been wounded but no other blood mark or anything else could be discovered.

If the police version is true, the gun battle lasted about six hours. How could Umakanta fight with only a revolver, allegedly taken away from a dead Sub-Inspector of Police a few months back? His killing is as badly done as the killing of Cherukuri Rajkumar alias Azad by the Andhra Police. Now it is clearly established that Azad was arrested by the Andhra Police from a hotel in Nagpur and killed without much delay and his body was thrown into the jungle and declared that he was killed in an encounter. It has also been alleged by the police that the motorbike recovered from Umakanta was the one stolen about a month back from the Jamboni Gram Panchayat Pradhan, Soumen Bhakat, a member of Jharkhand Party (Naren Hansda Group) when he was gunned down by the Maoists. The fact is that Soumen and his companion on the motorbike were killed by the CPI-M killers appointed by Amar Bose, the CPI-M MLA of Jhargram, and Prashanta Das, one of the three Local Committee members of Jhargram, who also took away Soumen’s motorbike.

The facts are that as per normal practice, Umakanta (37) used to visit his house every week. He would come in the evening, spend time with his children and others and leave after dinner. On that fateful evening, he came to his house, talked to his parents, Sambhunath and Sakhirani, instructed his eldest daughter, Tanushree (13), about her school lessons, took the other two daughters, Anushree and Rajashree, simultaneously on his shoulders, kissed them both before putting them down, gave toffees to his only son, Adrikanta (6), had dinner-time small talk with his wife, Sabita (32), and then went out. There was no sound of the starting of his bike.

It is most likely that the police were waiting in plainclothes near his house, grabbed him as soon as he came out, stopped him from shouting and took him to the forest to kill him. After killing him, his own bike was taken away and replaced by the bike of Soumen Bhakat, which was taken away by Prashanta Das, the local CPI-M leader, after Soumen’s killing.

The main point is exactly as alleged by Swami Agnivesh that Azad was killed to stop the process of peaceful negotiations between the government and the Maoists; so was Umakanta similarly killed to stall the peace process started by the Railway Minister, Mamata Banerjee, at Lalgarh on August 9 last.

The other factual points are:

1. A gunbattle from midnight for five-to-six hours would end only in the morning, but in this case the battle ended at midnight itself.

2. The Police has claimed that they had fired at least 150 rounds and the Maoists have also fired considerable number of rounds. However, the local villagers have testified that they had heard only about 20/22 rounds of gunfire at midnight.

3. If there was a gunbattle, Umakanta’s body ought to have taken the bullets on the chest, belly and other frontal parts of the body. But his dead body has two bullet wounds and that too only on the back;

4. Maoists never take their motorbikes inside the jungle hide-outs. How come Umakanta took his motorbike there?

5. How come only Umakanta was gunned down and no policemen received any injury at night in the jungle?

The Chief Minister’s uncle, Sukanta Bhattacharjee, had in a poem written:
Hing-ting chot prosno eshob mathar maddhe kamrai
Boroloker dhak toiri gorib loker chamrai
(All these humble-jumble questions bother me very much The drums of the rich men are made of skins of the poor).

Dipak Kumar Ghosh, an erstwhile member of the IAS, is a former Principal Secretary to the Government of West Bengal; he was also a Trinamul Congress MLA from Mahisadal.

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