Monday 26 October 2020

Murder of BJP ‘strongman’ Manish Shukla: Probe opens can of worms

The threat perception of a municipal chairman of the TMC or an internal feud in the local BJP look equally plausible causes of the murder

The case of West Bengal BJP politician Manish Shukla’s murder is shrouded in mystery, with a blood donation camp fuelling speculations. The Barrackpore industrial area is agog with rumours about the camp.

The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) had organised this camp in Ward No. 8 of Titagarh Municipality last afternoon. There were Lalon Paswan, the leader of the Trinamool workers’ union in the Barrackpore area, and Prashant Majumder, the municipal administrator among the organisers.

Since Manish Shukla was shot at on the crowded BT Road, BJP politicians and activists have been accusing the ruling party of murder. BJP activists in the area say that the organisers of the blood donation camp were heard saying yesterday, “They have Manish Shukla. We have a counter, Arman Mandal.”

Referring to the incident, a pro-BJP businessman in Titagarh Bazaar said this afternoon, “They issued threats at noon and murdered Manish Shukla at night!”

Arman Mandal, who? Locals know him as a resident of Ward 4 of Titagarh Municipality next to the police station. In the words of a former TMC councillor of the municipality, “Arman is notorious in the area. After being in jail for almost two and a half years, he was released on bail a few months ago. He has come back to the neighbourhood.”

BJP activists in the area claim that the TMC ensured Arman Mandal secured bail because of his old ‘enmity’ with Manish. People say ‘Strongman’ Manish had enemies other than Arman. Everyone who has witnessed the political rise of Manish, a resident of Adarsh ​​Palli in Kharadha, admits that Manish, who joined the BJP after having served as a henchman of the CPI(M), West Bengal Congress and TMC has always been known in the area as a ‘Bahubali’. Many say Manish had contacts with the who’s who of the underbelly of Barrackpore. A section of senior police officers of the state attribute Manish Shukla’s murder to things gone wrong in the forever-changing allegiance of the dead strongman.

Manish Shukla was accused in at least 18 criminal cases in the police register. The list of cases registered at the police stations of Titagarh, Jagddal, Bijpur, Naihati and Barrackpore in the Barrackpore Industrial Area includes charges of murder, robbery, kidnapping, assaulting policemen on duty and cases under the Arms Act.

Manish Shukla, soiurces in the police say, had begun his career as a goon in 2008-2009 under the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee regime of the CPI(M).

Referring to the criminal record against Manish, a section of the state police has hinted that “old enmity” may be behind the whole incident. Manish’s murder may not be a ‘political murder’., they say.

However, his old political colleague and outgoing chairman of Titagarh municipality Prashant Majumder could not believe that there was no politics behind the incident. “I went to the blood donation camp,” he said on Sunday. “I don’t know if anything has been said about Manish.”

Majumdar identified Arman as a notorious villain in the area. But he asks, “Arjun Singh (BJP MP) says Manish was with him. He went to the spot on his way back. The assassins knew that Manish would go to Titagarh on Sunday night. Who passed on this news?”

In Majumdar’s words, “The spot can be seen from my office. To do something like that there has to be a big criminal.” His reference is towards the people of Manish or to those close to him.

The question is disturbing Manish’s companions too. Coincidentally, both the bodyguards of Manish were on leave on Sunday.

After the incident, BJP activists went to look for CCTV footage and saw that the CCTV cameras that were in a drug store next to the spot till Saturday were missing after the incident. The shopkeeper claims that the camera was malfunctioning and had to be repaired.

BJP workers claim the incident was pre-planned. Manish’s movements in the area were being monitored for a long time. The assassins, who came on three motorcycles, came from Barrackpore and fired at him from close range. Eyewitnesses say he was shot dead on the spot. When taken to a nursing home nearby, he was pronounced “brought dead”.

Yet the body was taken to a private hospital thereafter, which is situated on a lane that branches out of the bypass road, where an autopsy was conducted at the NRS Medical College Hospital morgue today.

Police in Barrackpore claim they have started an investigation and got some notable clues. CID officials went to the spot to assist the Barrackpore Commissionerate police in the investigation. State police tweeted today that the cops are still investigating the murder and looking into all possible reasons thereof, including that of personal enmity. The police have requested not to jump to any conclusion before they finish the probe.

State police’s tweets have been requested to refrain from making irresponsible comments on social media. Police are apprehensive as the murder has polarised the area, which could lead to rioting or a gang war.

While the TMC is officially attributing the murder to some internal feud in the BJP, a section of the ruling party is leaking some sinister information to the media. They are alleging that an adversary of TMC MLA Silbhadra Datta, a chairman of one of the municipalities, is behind the murder. They say that their party had been sending feelers to Manish Shukla and trying to get him back in the TMC on the one hand and planning to dump Datta on the other in the next election. “If Shukla had been back, the TMC would have nominated him instead of that municipal chairman,” a reliable source in the ruling party said.

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