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Birbhum killings: CBI report highlights ‘postmaster’ Bhadu Sheikh’s money power, slams police

CBI likely to question senior IPS officers in coming days. Calcutta High Court Friday ordered agency to also take up case of local TMC leader Bhadu Sheikh’s murder.

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Kolkata: A “daak master” (postmaster) who would pass on cuts of ill-gotten money to “higher-ups” — that’s how the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) characterised Bhadu Sheikh in its status report submitted to the Calcutta High Court. The deputy gram panchayat leader’s murder is suspected to have sparked the mob attack that left nine dead in West Bengal’s Birbhum district last month.

According to officers ThePrint spoke to, the report also criticised the role of the state police, and the CBI is likely to question senior IPS officers in the coming days.  After examining the agency’s report on its investigation into the mob violence, the high court Friday ordered it to also take up the case of Bhadu Sheikh’s murder. 

In its order, the bench comprising Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj said, “The report submitted by the CBI before this court today prima facie suggests that the brutal incident of burning and killing at Bogtui village is the direct fallout of the killing of Bhadu Sk son of Marfat Sk of village Bogtui at 8.30 P.M. on the same day. It also suggests that the incident is the outcome of the rivalry amongst the members of two groups in the village and that the burning of the houses resulting in the death of eight persons was a retaliatory plan.”

As the CBI now takes over the murder probe, it intends to investigate the “larger conspiracy” behind the crime, and will be interrogating more key people who could be connected to build a watertight case before submitting a chargesheet.

ThePrint spoke to senior investigating officers, who said that their ongoing investigation into the mob attack is at an “advanced stage”. They also stated that the victims were first attacked and brutally injured before being set on fire. 

The additional solicitor general, Y.J. Dastur, informed the court that the CBI has collected data and is scientifically examining it. The agency has also requested the local court in Rampurhat to allow the use of lie detection tests on eight of the arrested persons, including Trinamool leader Anarul Hossain. The CBI has examined the call records of those arrested, including Hossain. 

A team of CBI officers has been camping at Rampurhat since 26 March. The agency now awaits the DNA reports of the charred bodies and a forensic report, which are expected to give them further leads.

Speaking to ThePrint, a senior official of the investigating team said that they are hopeful of submitting the chargesheet in the mob attack case very soon. Meanwhile, agency officers Thursday flew down to Mumbai and arrested 4 suspects who had “fled”. The CBI says eyewitnesses are now coming forward and speaking to them as they try to crack this case. 

Bhadu Sheikh, a local Trinamool Congress leader, was murdered on 21 March in his village, Bogtui in the Rampurhat subdivision of West Bengal’s Birbhum district. Just hours later, a mob descended on the village and set several houses ablaze in what is suspected to have been a retaliatory attack, leaving eight people dead, with another succumbing to burn injuries a week later.

Also read: ‘Mob of over 100 ransacked homes, set ablaze houses to kill families’, says CBI’s Birbhum FIR

Status report

According to the 22-page report, the CBI has identified at least 35 more culprits after closely examining CCTV visuals. They are also likely to seize CCTV footage from the fuel pumps in the vicinity to understand how the mob acquired the fuel to set the houses on fire. The report also includes the recorded statements of fire department officials.

The CBI has also found that, on 21 March, Bhadu Sheikh had purchased a piece of land, and had given some cash to his self-styled bodyguards to celebrate the good news, before he was killed at a tea stall outside his village. 

The CCTV footage of the murder, now being circulated widely on social media, shows bike-borne men lobbing crude bombs at Sheikh. The CBI is also investigating how this evidence under investigation was leaked, and by whom. 

The report also states that the police played a lackadaisical role the night Bogtui was burning, and that there were certain discrepancies in the police investigation into Bhadu Sheikh’s murder. 

The prime suspects, Sona Sheikh and Palash, are currently absconding. Another suspect, who the police had detained for questioning regarding the killing, was let off and is now also on the run. 

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had rushed director general of police Manoj Malviya to Rampurhat the day after the attack. A special investigation team comprising senior IPS officers was also formed to carry out the investigation.

But the Calcutta High Court, while passing an order for a CBI probe on 25 March, had criticised the police investigation. “On minute examination of the case diary, we are of the opinion that the investigation as expected, keeping in view the gravity of offence, has not been done,” the bench had said.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: Bikes afire, explosions, cries of ‘bachao’: residents recount night of Birbhum massacre


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