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300 witnesses examined, Kolkata Police suspect ‘larger conspiracy’ behind break-in at Mamata home

Family claims accused Hafizul Mollah 'mentally unstable', and was arrested earlier while trying to break into Nabanna, the state secretariat.

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Kolkata: Hafizul Mollah, who allegedly broke into West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s private residence in Kolkata’s Kalighat area on 3 July, was sent to 14 days’ judicial custody Monday. Meanwhile, investigators probing the security breach suspect a “larger conspiracy”.

Public Prosecutor Sourin Ghoshal has said in a submission before the chief judicial magistrate in Kolkata that the city police have examined 300 witnesses in the case and conducted raids in the Basirhat and Hasnabad areas of North 24 Parganas district, near Kolkata. Mollah is a resident of Hasnabad.

The police are also investigating a “racket” linked to this high-profile case, said Ghoshal.

He added that the Kolkata Police, for the first time, will be using a “gait pattern” of investigation in this case — a forensic method used to match visuals from CCTV cameras with the accused person’s gait and features. 

Senior police officers ThePrint spoke to said Mollah had conducted a “thorough recce of the chief minister’s residence over a period of six months”, adding that CCTV visuals as old as three months place Mollah near Mamata’s home.

Mollah had familiarised himself with local residents and police officers so well that none of those on duty around the CM’s residence suspected that something was amiss, the officers added.

Mollah was arrested by Kalighat police on 3 July, hours after he reportedly scaled a boundary wall of Mamata’s private residence and hid near the vehicles parked inside. He was spotted around 8 am, when security officers on duty were changing shifts.

Mollah has been booked under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 458 (lurking house-trespass or house-breaking by night after preparation for hurt, assault, or wrongful restraint) of the IPC. 

The accused was using at least 11 SIM cards, according to the Kolkata Police’s submission in the court of the chief judicial magistrate in Kolkata. Links to Bangladesh, Jharkhand and Karnataka are also being probed.

Public prosecutor Ghoshal told the chief judicial magistrate that Mollah had taken photos of the CM’s residence on his phone and sent them to certain people through WhatsApp, but hadn’t disclosed their identities during his oral submission in court.

“The Kolkata Police have not arrested any other suspect in the case and are still investigating Mollah, so I haven’t opposed his judicial custody today,” advocate Bikas Guchait, who has been appointed by the State Legal Services Authority to represent Mollah in the case, told ThePrint.

“The Kolkata Police have also begun examining an old case in Rajasthan in which Hafizul was arrested. The case details haven’t been shared so far,” he added.


Also Read: Poet, artist, singer Mamata showcased another talent on hill visit — making puchka, momos


Mamata’s Kalighat home a fortress

The chief minister of West Bengal is provided ‘Z+’ category security by Kolkata Police. The only other person who gets the same protection in the state is Mamata’s nephew and Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee. 

A ‘Z+’ security cover includes over 20 armed police personnel, including women. The chief minister’s security also conducts advance security liaison, which entails safety drills ahead of any event or travel.

The security officers access locations, and sanitise the venue. Alternative routes are also identified as back-ups. Vehicles that are part of the CM’s convoy include an ambulance and fire tender. The closest hospital is earmarked in case of any emergency. All duty officers are identified and given security passes. 

Surrounding Mamata’s Kalighat residence are CCTV cameras and watch towers, with police bunkers outside and inside the compound. Officers from the Special Branch of Kolkata Police are on duty in both uniform and civil clothes. 

The road leading up to the chief minister’s residence has barricades, and every vehicle that doesn’t have an entry pass is checked. But all these measures appear to have failed on 3 July. 

Top cop transferred 

In the wake of the massive security lapse, the director of state security, IPS officer Vivek Sahay, was removed from the post on 6 July. He was replaced by IPS officer Peeyush Pandey.

In March 2021, when Mamata injured her leg during an election campaign in Nandigram, the Election Commission of India had suspended Sahay. In a statement, the ECI had said: “Charges must be framed against him within a week for grossly failing in discharge of his primary duty as director, security, to protect the Z+ protectee”. 

A day after she took her oath as CM for a third term in May that year, Mamata revoked Sahay’s suspension.

Kolkata Police Commissioner Vineet Kumar Goyal and other top officers of the force visited the chief minister’s residence multiple times in the wake of the security lapse. Police sources said, during the investigations, officers discovered some “blind spots” that were not under CCTV surveillance. 

A Special Investigation Team of eight police officers has now been given charge of investigating the case. This team is headed by the joint commissioner of police (crime). The case has been transferred from the Kalighat police to the detective department of Kolkata Police. The Kolkata Police have so far not issued any official statement regarding this case.  

Found out about his arrest from media, says Mollah’s father

Mollah’s family claims he is mentally unstable and had been undergoing treatment at the state-run SSKM Hospital in Kolkata.

Speaking to ThePrint, Moinul Mollah, Hafizul Mollah’s father, said: “We found out from the media that my son was arrested. He is mentally unstable. He once tried to enter Nabanna (state secretariat) and was arrested by Shibpur police. I showed the prescription and got him out that day.”

In his 30s, Mollah is married and has a four-year-old daughter. He has three brothers and his father is a farmer. They live at Asharia in Narayanpur village under Hasnabad. 

Mollah is a driver by profession and drove trucks and cars between Basirhat and Howrah. “My husband used to drive a car and had left home weeks ago,” his wife Jasmine Bibi said. Kolkata Police have also recorded statements of the family.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)


Also Read: Amit Shah requests Owaisi to accept Z-category security, says he still faces security threat


 

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