Bowing to intense pressure from the public and the Left Front, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharya government in West Bengal removed two police officers from their posts on Friday and hinted at similar action against three senior IPS officers, including the Kolkata Police Commissioner, for their alleged involvement in the mysterious death of Muslim youth Rizwanur Rahaman.
The state government removed Assistant Commissioner Sukanta Chakraborty and Sub-Inspector Krishnendu Das of the anti-rowdy section of Kolkata Police from their posts on Friday for allegedly intimidating Rizwanur to opt out of his marriage with Priyanka Todi, daughter of prominent industrialist Ashok Todi.
State Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy hinted that the government may also remove two deputy commissioners of Kolkata Police whose names have cropped up in the case.
"If need be, we will remove the two senior IPS officers -- Deputy Commissioner (headquarters) Gyanwant Singh and Deputy Commissioner (detective department) Ajay Kumar -- whose names have figured in the case. We will take legal advice in the matter and proceed accordingly," Roy told reporters at the state secretariat here.
He, however, said "no decision" had been taken about Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee, whose name had also figured in the case.
Rizwanur, a 30-year-old graphic designer, whose body was found beside a railway track here on Sep 21 with his head smashed, had mentioned the names of Gyanwant Singh and Ajay Kumar, besides police officers Sukanta Chakraborty and Krishnendu Das as the ones who had harassed him.
Both Chakraborty and Das had told Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officers that they had merely followed instructions from their superiors while hounding Rizwanur and his wife Priyanka to end their marriage.
Earlier in the day, veteran Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Jyoti Basu said the government would take suitable action against the Police Commissioner only after Calcutta High Court heard the case.
"Heads will roll and even Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee may not be spared. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya is awaiting the hearing in the case by Calcutta High Court. Action will be taken against the police commissioner after that. We are waiting to see if the court orders a CBI probe into the incident," Basu said.
The court has postponed the hearing till Monday.
Basu also slammed Mukherjee's statement at a press conference last week that the police would interfere in cases where a marriage had taken place between families who are poles apart in social standing.
"The police commissioner's remark is in very bad taste. He should never have said that. What he has said is his own view and the government does not subscribe to it. The chief minister has listened to his statement on television and is very perturbed over it."
The government's action against the police officers follows intense pressure from senior CPI-M politicians, opposition leaders, intellectuals and the media over the past few days.
Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi had set the tone on Tuesday by demanding a proper inquiry into the case and promising suitable action against the guilty.
CPI-M central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty slammed the police commissioner for defending his two senior IPS officers. "It is for the senior officers to decide whether to stay put or proceed on leave," he said.
Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty turned up the heat by demanding the removal of the accused cops to ensure transparency in the inquiry. Voices of protest were also heard from other Left Front allies like the Revolutionary Socialist Party and the Communist Party of India.
RSP leader and Public Works Department Minister Kshiti Goswami said he had no faith in the CID inquiry.
Communist Party of India leader Nandogopal Bhattacharya said the officers against whom fingers have been pointed should themselves go on leave.
Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee said the government should not take action only against the junior officers and leave out the senior officials. "We want a CBI inquiry into the case," she said.
Former chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray said Buddhadeb Bhattacharya's "inaction makes him guilty" of violating the Supreme Court's verdict of July 7, 2006, which asked the administration and police to protect couples in inter-caste or inter-religious marriages from harassment.
Noted writer Sunil Gangopadhyay and Magasasay Award winner Mahestwa Devi had also demanded removal of all tainted police officials for the sake of a proper investigation.
The common people were not to be left behind. Candlelight vigils, protest marches and signature campaigns were held at various places to force the government into a corner and take action against the guilty police officials.
"The government has finally risen from slumber and taken action against the guilty police officials. But we will keep up the pressure on the government to ensure that senior police officials are also punished," said Tahir Ahmed, a participant.
Sujato Bhadra of the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR), a human rights body, said, "I think it is a victory of sorts for all of us. But it all depends on whether the government takes action against the senior IPS officers involved in the case."
Rizwanur was in touch with Bhadra before his death and had given a written complaint about the harassment by the police officials.
Students of St Xavier's College, where Rizwanur had studied, kept an 18-hour vigil outside the college gates, demanding action against the guilty and a CBI probe into his death.
Rizwanur's family and friends are also not giving up easily. One of his friends in Canada has already lodged a complaint with the Amnesty International. Friends from across the world are sending emails in support of the bereaved family. And an SMS campaign for justice is gaining momentum.
The West Bengal chief minister had ordered a judicial probe into the mysterious death of Rizwanur Sep 27 by former Calcutta High Court judge Alok Chakraborty after police involvement in the case came out in the open.
Bhattacharya had earlier ordered a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) inquiry into the case, which is going on at the same time as the judicial inquiry.
The CID had submitted an interim report of the ongoing probe into the mysterious death of Rizwanur to state Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Roy Wednesday.
Roy said senior IPS officials whose names were dragged into the case would be called in at an appropriate time.
A copy of the CID report would be sent to the West Bengal Human Rights Commission (WBHRC), official sources said.
Earlier, the name of former Bengal Ranji Trophy cricketer Snehasish Ganguly, brother of cricket icon Sourav Ganguly, was dragged into the case after he admitted introducing the Todis to Police Commissioner Prasun Mukherjee.