Hours after Kolkata Police issued a statement rubbishing reports of Commissioner Rajeev Kumar going “missing” and warning media houses of legal action for spreading “baseless news”, a high drama was witnessed in front of Kumar’s official residence on Loudon Street on Sunday as a CBI team landed there to question him in connection with the infamous chit fund scam.
The group of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officers were stopped by the police who whisked them away to a police station.
While the CBI could not succeed in its bid, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah of trying to organise a coup in the state, and later began a dharna at Dharmatala.
The CBI team, led by deputy superintendent Tathagata Bardhan, had reached Kumar’s residence around evening, a day after it was reported that the agency was “looking for” him in connection with its probe into the chit fund scam.
Quoting CBI sources, several media reports had said Kumar, a 1989 batch IPS officer, might be arrested in the case if he did not respond to the agency’s summons.
CBI Joint Director Pankaj Srivastava confirmed that a team had gone to Kolkata Police commissioner Rajeev Kumar’s residence to question him on Sunday and said they “would have rounded him up if he hadn’t cooperated”.
The team was however stopped from entering the house.
Within a few minutes of the CBI officers’ arrival, some senior Kolkata Police officers reached the place and engaged with the CBI team. A little later, another team from the agency landed there in another car, while some other officers went to the Park Street police station.
Around 7 pm, the drama intensified near Kumar’s residence, and there were reports of a scuffle between the police personnel and the CBI team. Three deputy commissioners of police and some officers from the anti-rowdy section were at the spot. Soon, several CBI officials were bundled into police jeeps and taken away to a police station where they were detained.
After waiting outside Kumar’s residence for some time, Bardhan left. He, however, replied in the negative when asked if they were retreating.
Soon, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reached Kumar’s residence and castigated the Centre, alleging political vindictiveness.
She alleged that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was directing the CBI to harass political opponents on the orders from the PM.
“I feel ashamed to talk to such a prime minister who has blood on his hands,” she said.
“Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are trying to organise a coup in the state as we had organised the opposition rally on January 19. We were aware that the CBI will attack us after we organised the rally,” Banerjee said, referring to last month’s “United Opposition” rally.
On the other hand, a team of Kolkata Police officials reached the CGO Complex in Salt Lake area, the state headquarters of CBI.
“I have also been detained and there are police officers standing outside my house,” Srivastava told PTI.
However, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Pravin Tripathi said the CBI officers had been let go from the police station after questioning.
“They just said they had come for a secret operation. We don’t know what kind of operation it is,” Tripathi told PTI.
Later in the evening, central forces arrived at the CBI headquarters that had been cordoned off by a strong city police team.
Meanwhile, Trinamool spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien said the BJP seemed to be planning a “constitutional coup”, adding that his party would raise the matter in Parliament on Monday.
“BJP planning a constitutional coup ? 40 CBI officials surround Kolkata Police Commissioner’s home. Destruction of institutions goes on unabated. Our demand in #Parliament on Mon. Modi has to go. We are reaching out and sharing this with all Oppn parties who want to #SaveDemocracy,” O’Brien tweeted.
BJP planning a constitutional coup ? 40 CBI officials surround Kolkata Police Commissioner’s home. Destruction of institutions goes on unabated. Our demand in #Parliament on Mon. Modi has to go. We are reaching out and sharing this with all Oppn parties who want to #SaveDemocracy
— Derek O’Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) February 3, 2019
Mamata Banerjee too accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah of trying to organise a coup in the state. She later began a dharna at Dharmatala. Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, West Bengal Director General of Police Virendra and ADG (Law & Order) Anuj Sharma were present there.
“We had come here to protect the Constitution under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee,” said a TMC leader.
In a tweet, Mamata said: “The highest levels of the BJP leadership are doing the worst kind of political vendetta. Not only are political parties their targets, they are misusing power to take control of the police and destroy all institutions. We condemn this…”
The highest levels of the BJP leadership are doing the worst kind of political vendetta. Not only are political parties their targets, they are misusing power
to take control of the police and destroy all institutions. We condemn this 1/2
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) February 3, 2019
Giving her clean chit to Kumar, she said in a subsequent tweet: “The Kolkata Police Commissioner is among the best in the world. His integrity, bravery and honesty are unquestioned. He is working 24×7, and was on leave for only one day recently. When you spread lies, the lies will always remain lies”.
At a hurriedly-called press conference outside Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar’s residence earlier, Banerjee said the CBI’s action was politically vindictive.
“Our government arrested chit fund owners when we came to power. It is we who formed an SIT to probe the matter,” she said, adding: “Let them prove that Kumar is involved in the chit fund scam.”
Banerjee said, “Law and order is a state subject. Why should we give you (CBI) everything. From where are they getting such an audacity to come to the police commissioner’s residence without any warrant?”
Wondering if the Centre wanted to impose President’s Rule in West Bengal, the CM said she would not attend the Assembly proceedings on Monday when the state Budget would be presented. She described the evolving situation as an “emergency”.
Rajeev Kumar, meanwhile, said he would talk to the media on Monday.
(With agency inputs)