Kolkata: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has made its first arrests in its investigation into the killings that took place in a village in Rampurhat, in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, on 21 March.
A team of six officers probing the crime flew down to Mumbai and arrested four suspects early Thursday morning. Through transit remand, they will be produced before the Rampurhat court, where the CBI will seek their custody.
The CBI suspects that the accused — whose identities it has not yet revealed —had fled to Mumbai fearing arrest after the case was handed over to the central agency.
The bureau Thursday also submitted a 22-page status report on the investigation to the Calcutta High Court. The court had ordered the CBI to take up the case in a suo motu hearing by a Chief Justice bench on 25 March.
Following the murder of local Trinamool Congress leader Bhadu Sheikh in Bogtui village on 21 March, a mob torched several houses in the village, resulting in the deaths of nine people in what is suspected to have been a retaliatory attack.
So far, the CBI has been interrogating the 21 accused held by state police; the latter are no longer involved in the investigation following the high court’s intervention.
The CBI suspects that two of the persons arrested earlier, who are currently under judicial custody, played key roles in the violence. Three of the other accused — Sona Sheikh, Palash, and Bhadu Sheikh’s brother — are currently absconding.
Sources in the CBI told ThePrint that the victims of the violence were first brutally assaulted, after which their homes were set on fire. A senior investigating officer said that the probe is at an advanced stage, and that they are waiting for the DNA test reports of the victims.
The CBI in its status report has mentioned that it is closely examining the CCTV footage it has collected from the scene of the crime, and has identified at least 35 more people through this.
The agency has also requested the local court in Rampurhat to allow lie detection tests to be conducted on eight of the accused, including Trinamool leader Anarul Hossain. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had instructed the police to arrest Hossain for allegedly ignoring SOS calls from the villagers on the night of the massacre, and for not informing the police about the incident.
The Calcutta High Court has now reserved its order in petitions asking it to also hand over the investigation into Bhadu Sheikh’s death to the CBI. The Rampurhat Police have been investigating the murder case so far.