West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s dharna (sit-in protest) in Kolkata, which she commenced on Sunday to protest against the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) move to enter the house of city police chief Rajeev Kumar to quiz him on chit funds scams, entered its second day on Monday.
Drama of the highest order broke out on Sunday night in Kolkata as a CBI team’s arrival at the residence of purportedly ‘missing’ Kolkata Police CP Rajeev Kumar spiralled to an extent where West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is now sitting on a dharna and recieving proclamations of support from various opposition leaders, while the probe agency is mulling approaching the Supreme Court over its officers having been arrested.
The matter had been simmering since earlier this morning, as the Kolkata Police issued a strong statement dismissing claims that its commissioner of police Rajeev Kumar had gone ‘missing’ in light of the CBI seeking to probe him in connection with the Saradha scam, which Kumar had investigated as the head of the SIT till the Supreme Court handed the case to the CBI. Alongside the Kolkata Police, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also issued a statement backing Rajeev Kumar in the strongest possible terms, calling him the “best in the world.”
Matters reached a head as a CBI team reached the residence of Rajeev Kumar on Sunday evening. They were stopped from entering by the Kolkata police security which inquired whether they had a warrant. As the CBI and the Kolkata police faced-off, the CBI team was told that Rajeev Kumar wasn’t present. At this point, a part of the team headed to the Shakespeare Sarani Police station, which has jurisdiction over the area of the Kolkata CP’s residence, even as more police personnel arrived.
Upon her arrival, a quick meeting was held at Rajeev Kumar’s residence, even as a number of political leaders began to wade into the burgeoning controversy, with the Opposition expressing its support for Mamata Banerjee. Senior Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien called it an attempt at a ‘constitutional coup’.
Mamata Banerjee addressed the media outside Rajeev Kumar’s residence, even as top CBI sources said to Republic TV that the officers did have a warrant and also revealed that they suspected that documents were being destroyed in the commissioner’s office and residence. At this point, as per sources, the CBI was considering approaching the Governor of the state.
In her address, Mamata Banerjee launched a scathing attack at the Modi government, alleging that this was being done with the elections in mind. She denied that there was any wrongdoing by her government in the Saradha scam, putting forth that it was her government that had initiated a probe in the matter and had ensured that money bwas returned to the people who had been scammed. She then announced that she would be sitting on a Dharna immediately against the events of the night, but an even bigger reveal was Rajeev Kumar then appearing from his residence and then promptly returning inside.
“He(Rajeev Kumar) was heading the inquiry that collected a lot of evidence. We need to know where it has gone. Where are the call records? Rajeev Kumar needs to be investigated so that he gives all answers. I cannot comment more on the larger conspiracy.”
In a quite extraordinary and emotional appeal from the spot of her Dharna, with under-spotlight Rajeev Kumar also joining in, Mamata Banerjee said that she was ready to die if it meant saving democracy:
“We are protesting to save democracy. To stop the hooliganism… we respect the constitution… all institutes.. Supreme Court…
We are protesting to save democracy. We respect agencies and court.”
“Attempts are made to destroy all the forces, they have destroyed institutions.
I thank all political parties who have supported us. This is a super emergency. I will not allow a super emergency.”
“Tomorrow they will do the same with the some other states. I can’t let this happen. Our confidence is with the people of India, all the citizens and media and judiciary. It is an appeal to save India, save constitution, save democracy. Modiji has gone mad.”
Union Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Babul Supriyo demanded imposition of ‘presidential rule’ in the eastern state where the Trinamool Congress is ruling since 2011.
Supriyo tweeted: “What’s happening in Bengal? – Arrests CBI – Denied permission for rallies – Doesn’t let @AmitShah’s choppers land – Let’s her goonda party men to kill BJP supporters – Insults federal system We demand #PresidentRuleInBengal. #MamataFearsBJP #MamataBlocksCBI.”
Top CBI sources confirmed that Rajeev Kumar had destroyed evidence, Interim CBI Boss Nageshwar Rao said to ANI that “There is evidence against him (Rajeev Kumar), he has been instrumental in causing destruction of this evidence and obstructing justice” and “They have taken charge of all the evidence, seized all the documents. They have not been cooperating with us in handing over all the documents and a lot of evidence has been destroyed or caused to disappear.”