‘Minister’s phone call’ changes charge against TMC activist

Javed Ahmed Khan
A prominent Trinamool Congress activist was arrested on January 8 for alleged rioting in Topsia. However, following an alleged phone call from Fire Minister Javed Ahmed Khan the same day, the police changed the charges against him.

The "rioting" happened on January 1 when police went to Topsia to rescue a woman who was being attacked on the suspicion of being a child lifter. A mob attacked the police and burnt three police vehicles. However, the police said those attacked were not child lifters.

Yesterday, 10 people were arrested from Tiljala-Topsia areas in connection with the attack.

For the past three months, the fear of child lifters has kept areas in Tiljala, Topsia, Beniapukur, Narkeldanga and Rajabazar on tenterhooks. The police, however, maintain that the fears are unfounded.

"One of those arrested last night was Md Abdul, from whose possession about 5 kg explosives and improvised firearms were recovered," said P K Ghosh, joint CP (crime). He said that the police were looking at a possibility that the attacks were a smoke screen to cover up some other motive.

Prior to last night's arrests, Md Yusuf — prominent Trinamool activist and aide of the party bigwigs — was arrested on January 8, two days after he shared the stage with top TMC leaders like Sudip Bandopadhyay and Javed Ahmed Khan at a programme. Yusuf, a Topsia resident, was picked up by officers of the anti-rowdy section (ARS) of Kolkata Police at 2 pm.

"He was arrested on charges of rioting on January 1 at Topsia 1st Lane," said S Chakraborty, OC of Tiljala PS.

"He had to be arrested from the school where his children study because if we tried to arrest him from his area, there could have been trouble," said a senior officer of ARS.

He added that minister Javed Ahmed Khan had called up senior officials of ARS the same day and said that Yusuf was with him the day the incident happened. "But when we interrogated Yusuf, he said he was sleeping at that time," he said.

Later, Yusuf was booked under Section 326 IPC for 'voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means' against a complaint lodged against him on January 6. He is in judicial custody and the next hearing is on January 15, said Baidyanath Saha, AC (ARS).

When contacted, Khan denied any association with Yusuf. "I don't recall knowing anyone by that name and have certainly not made any such phone call. I meet so many party supporters every day, it is not possible to carry everyone's bio-data," he said.

Regarding the fear of child lifting, officers-in-charge of Tiljala and Topsia police stations denied any reports of missing children. They said the attacks on people suspected to be child lifters were based on rumours.

"We did not receive any complaint of a missing child in the last four months," said the Tiljala OC. A Haque, OC, Topsia PS, too said, "All the missing cases have been solved in my area and the allegations that kids went missing and have been found with organs missing are baseless."

They also said that the police were campaigning against the spread of such rumours. "We are organising meetings, talking to imams to spread the word during the Friday namaz, sending NGO members from door to door to sensitise people about the situation and tell them not pay heed to or spread rumours," said Haque.

Lalbazar officials said that in the past three months seven attacks were reported on suspected child lifters. Three people were killed, including two women, and two seriously injured.

"There is no proof that those killed in the attacks had any connection with child lifting," said P K Ghosh, joint CP (crime).

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