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First arrest made in Purulia BJP worker’s murder, HC to hear family’s plea seeking CBI probe on Monday

The accused is a resident of Supurdi village and has two houses, one of which is located barely 500 metres from the spot where 20-year-old Trilochan Mahato’s body was found hanging from a tree on May 30.

india Updated: Jun 24, 2018 23:49 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Kolkata, Hindustan Times
Purulia BJP worker’s murder,Purulia,Arrest
Bharatiya Janata Party workers take part in a rally against recent killings of party members Trilochan Mahato and Dulal Kumar in Purulia, in Kolkata on June 2. (PTI file photo)

The West Bengal police on Sunday made the first arrest in connection with the murder of BJP worker Trilochan Mahato, whose killing in Purulia last month turned into a political issue after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah blamed the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) for the crime.

Punjabi Mahato, 46, was arrested in the afternoon following grilling in phases.

The accused is a resident of the same village, Supurdi, and has two houses, one of which is located barely 500 metres from the spot where 20-year-old Trilochan Mahato’s body was found hanging from a tree on May 30, police said.

The arrest came a day before the Calcutta high court is expected to hear a plea from Trilochan’s family seeking a CBI probe into the murder. The family had filed a writ petition in the high court on June 18.

“Two mobile phones and two SIM cards, which were kept concealed in the house of Punjabi Mahato, have been seized and are being examined forensically. He will be produced in court tomorrow with a prayer for police custody,” the CID said in a statement on Sunday evening.

While the statement said nothing about the reason for the murder, a CID officer, on condition of anonymity, said the motive was not entirely clear. “More arrests might follow, as we suspect the involvement of some other people also,” the officer said.

The arrested man was not named in the FIR that Trilochan’s father Hariram lodged at Balarampur police station on May 30. It named seven people – all associated with the Trinamool Congress – who had allegedly threatened Trilochan for hobnobbing with the BJP.

“We have heard of the arrest but will press for CBI inquiry before the court,” said Vivekananda, the deceased’s elder brother.

When Mahato’s body was found hanging from a tree, what shocked people was the message scribbled on his T-shirt -- that he was punished for having joined the BJP. Handwritten posters with similar messages were also recovered from near his body.

Coming in the backdrop of the BJP’s good performance in the whole of Purulia district in the rural elections, the murder raised a political storm.

However, Trilochan’s association with the BJP being restricted to writing electoral wall graffiti, the state police suspected the political message on the victim’s T-shirt to be a ploy to misguide the police.

While the district police chief had said he suspected personal enmity behind the murder, Mahato’s family, and the BJP, had accused the police of ‘trying to suppress the truth’.

Vivekananda Mahato said on Sunday that though Punjabi Mahato was not named in the FIR, he had, indeed, come under the family’s suspicion.

“Punjabi Mahato had never mixed with us. But when we were searching for my brother on May 29, the night he went missing, Punjabi willingly joined us in the search. He stayed around the next day as well, when my brother was found hanging. So, we had some doubts. Then, we noticed another change. He was a Trinamool Congress supporter but started attending the BJP’s programmes soon after the incident,” Vivekananda alleged.

Barely three days after Trilochan Mahato’s death, another BJP worker, Dulal Kumar, was found hanging from an electric pole in a nearby village in Balarampur.

The BJP chief had blamed this death, too, on the TMC but the police claimed that the autopsy report of Kumar’s body pointed to suicide. Kumar’s family also has approached the high court seeking CBI investigation.

Amit Shah is scheduled to visit Purulia on June 28 and address a public gathering in the town.

First Published: Jun 24, 2018 19:13 IST