File photo: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.(PTI)
File photo: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.(PTI)

'Not scared of rats': Mamata Banerjee after CBI seeks to question nephew’s wife

  • The CBI served notice to Trinamool TMC Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee's wife for questioning in connection with the coal smuggling case.
By HT Correspondent, Kolkata
UPDATED ON FEB 21, 2021 11:13 PM IST

“A tiger cub is not scared of fighting cats and rats… We have stood before guns,” West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee retorted at a public event on Sunday evening, hours after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) visited the south Kolkata residence of her nephew and Trinamool Congress (TMC) Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee and served notice to his wife for questioning in connection with the coal smuggling case.

“Muscle flexing or threats of jail sentence cannot scare us. We have stood before guns in the past. We won’t be scared of fighting rats. I will not surrender as long as I am alive. You cannot break our spine. A tiger cub is not scared of cats and rats,” Banerjee said at the cultural event in Kolkata on the occasion of International Mother Language Day.

Abhishek Banerjee’s wife, Rujira, was not present at the Harish Mukherjee Road building, named Santiniketan, when the five-member CBI team arrived around 2 pm on Sunday. The couple tied the knot in 2012 and have two children, a boy and a girl.

Abhishek Banerjee, too, retaliated by taking to Twitter and saying that he will not be "cowed down" while the TMC leadership alleged that the CBI is working under instructions from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) before the assembly polls to be held in March-April.

Banerjee tweeted an image of the notice that CBI additional superintendent of police Umesh Kumar left at his residence.

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"At 2pm today, the CBI served a notice in the name of my wife. We have full faith in the law of the land. However, if they think they can use these ploys to intimidate us, they are mistaken. We are not the ones who would ever be cowed down," he tweeted.

The notice, served under section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC), said a CBI team would come to his residence and question his wife at 3 pm. The case was registered on November 27 last year. CBI officials said they have plans to question Rujira Banerjee on Monday morning.

“It is known that the BJP will try to scare us before the polls. We are not worried,” said TMC Lok Sabha member Saugata Roy.

The CBI team's visit raised the political heat when CM Banerjee spoke strongly at the event held on the occasion of International Mother Language Day which coincides with Bhasha Diwas, or language day, observed in Bangladesh on February 21 to honour Bengali, the state’s official language.

Without naming the BJP, the chief minister said, “I speak with such pride because I speak in Bengali. The language gives me the courage. Today, on the 21st, let us throw a challenge for 21 (the year). I will be the goalkeeper. I will fight even if I am thrown in jail. We must win. Don’t try to hurt Bengal… Bengal will witness a new sunrise.”

The chief minister criticised the Centre for not acting on the state’s request to rename West Bengal as ‘Bangla’ and alleged that her state is facing a stepmother-like treatment.

“We are told that the word Bangla sounds similar to Bangladesh. How in that case Punjab should be renamed since there is a Punjab in Pakistan too… Our state is always shown in a bad light. There is always an effort to crush our spine,” said Banerjee.

TMC leaders also upped the ante during the day.

“If the CBI is so keen on cracking cases why doesn’t it arrest BJP leader Mukul Roy in the Narada case or Suvendu Adhikari in the Saradha chit fund case? Both are suspects,” said TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh who himself spent around two years in jail custody as a suspect in the Saradha case.

On December 31, the CBI raided three residences of businessman and TMC’s youth front general secretary Vinay Mishra in connection with the coal smuggling case. Mishra is missing since then and has been declared an absconder by the agency.

Abhishek Banerjee is the president of the TMC’s youth wing. On July 20, he appointed 15 general secretaries, including Mishra.

It is alleged that illegally mined coal, worth several thousand crores of rupees, have been sold in the black market over several years by a racket operating in the western parts of West Bengal where the Eastern Coalfields Limited runs several mines. Another prime suspect, Anup Majhi, alias Lala, is also absconding.

In early December, the CBI also raided the home and office of Ganesh Bagaria, a Kolkata-based chartered accountant.

The agency has not made any official statement before the media till date.

Ever since the probe started in September, the BJP has been alleging that the money from the sales was whitewashed through shell companies and siphoned into the funds of the ruling party. The BJP has also alleged that the main beneficiary is Abhishek Banerjee.

“The CBI probe will unearth the involvement of more TMC leaders in different scams. The entire state knows that ruling party leaders are involved in the coal scam,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said on Sunday.

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