Kolkata: Two youngsters were killed and a third is battling for life at a government hospital in Kolkata after the principal of a kindergarten school and her security guard opened fire on a group of trespassers in the wee hours of Monday morning.
Ironically, the incident took place at a stone's throw distance from the residence of the city's police commissioner right in the heart of Kolkata's central business district.
Eleven people including the school Principal, Mamta Agarwal, have been arrested and four others detained in connection with the firing and killings.
Two firearms have been recovered from the school premises, which also double up as the residence of the principal and the current occupier of the property, Ratan Lal Nahata.
The 17 cottah prime plot on Short Street, located in between Park Street and Shakespeare Sarani and adjacent to the St. Xavier's College, is valued at several crore rupees and is the subject of a long-standing dispute.
According to the police accounts the plot was originally owned by one Dwarka Nath Sein whose legal heir Sailabala Sein had allegedly sold the property to a Mumbai-based businessman back in 1999. However, in 2003 before her death, Sailabala allegedly willed the same property in the name of her two granddaughters who eventually sold the plot to Nahata.
But dispute over the plot took an ugly turn in 2010 when a second contender for the plot, Sanjay Sureka, claimed that he bought the property from the Mumbai-based businessman.
The Calcutta High Court quashed Nahata's appeal for legitimacy over the property on which the KG school currently stands on grounds that Sailabala's will wasn't probated. Since then it has been a bitter acrimony between the Nahata-Agarwal duo versus Sureka.
It was in this backdrop that a group of about 20 private security personnel, both men and women, hired from a local agency and led by a lawyer named Partha Chatterjee raided the disputed premises in the wee hours of Monday. A few of them scaled the school gate and opened it for the others who barged in. It was then that Agarwal and her bodyguard Pappu Khan opened fire on the trespassers.
While most of the outsiders managed to escape, a few took shelter inside one of the rooms at the premises. Police claim they have acquired footage from CCTVs installed at the premises which show the principal and her bodyguard moving into the room with their firearms. Incidentally it was Nahata who was the license holder of both the rifles used in the firing.
Police confirmed that a total of seven rounds were fired from the two rifles. Bodies of two men belonging to the security agency were recovered.
They were identified as Prosenjit Dey (28) and Pikloo Acharya (26). A third, grievously injured with bullet wounds, was admitted to the SSKM Hospital in Kolkata. Some 20 rounds of live cartridges were also recovered from the scene of crime besides the two firearms.
Agarwal claimed that her's was an act of self defence to resist the attack of the outsiders. However, police say that CCTV footages suggest that the trespassers were not carrying any firearms and that the principal was seen moving in and out of the room where the outsiders had taken shelter several times along with her bodyguard. The footage also shows that contrary to Agarwal's claims she tore her own clothes after the firing, police said.
Agarwal also reportedly told the police that she received death threats from her attackers the previous night and had gone to sleep with the rifle at her bedside all prepared to take on her assailants. She maintained that she had previously lodged several complaints with the local Shakespeare Sarani Police Station and higher authorities including the Chief Minister but the police allegedly did little to ensure her security. Agarwal also alleged that a local Trinamool Congress leader, Kaushik Sen, had teamed up with Sureka and was pressurising the occupiers to vacate the plot.
Both Sureka and Sen have strongly denied having played any role in this. In fact, Sen counter-alleged that it was Agarwal who had repeatedly threatened him, something which he too has brought to the notice of the police.
Police are currently on the lookout of the man who hired the lawyer and the security personnel to raid the school premises. They feel he is the most important link to this whole quagmire of property dispute.
The incident, however, has rattled the city's police and resident's alike and the challenge before the investigators, besides uncovering the real faces behind this long-standing dispute, is to ensure that licensed firearms are used only by their registered owners.