Kolkata: Two days after a policeman was shot dead during a clash between student activists, the West Bengal government on Thursday shifted out Kolkata police chief Ranjit Kumar Pachnanda for failure to apprehend the criminals, replacing him with Surajit Kar Purakayastha. While Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee - who also holds the Home portfolio - attributed the "strong action" on the "police's failure to arrest the criminals in time", Governor MK Narayanan disapproved Pachananda's removal and asked for a serious introspection by the government.
"If he has been removed for what has happened in the last few days, then quite clearly there is something wrong. I think it is something that has to be looked at very carefully," Narayanan said following Pachananda's removal. Pachnanda, a 1983 batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who took over as the city police commissioner on March 18, 2011, will now be the Additional Director General (ADG), security.
The slain cop - Tapas Chowdhury - a sub-inspector, was shot from close range while trying to control the clashing students in West kolkata's Garden Reach area on Tuesday. Twelve people have been taken into custody in connection with the killing. Pachananda's transfer comes at a time when the Banerjee government has been facing lot of criticism over the incident, especially for the alleged shielding of a Trinamool councillor by her party men.
The councillor Mohammad Iqbal has been named in the first information report although he is yet to be arrested. Iqbal has been charged with rioting, attempt to murder and certain sections of the Arms Act. He was seen at the spot of the incident, threatening a policeman and mobilising his supporters. Video footage aired by television channels also showed Iqbal standing beside Sheikh Shubhaan, the man who was caught on TV firing the bullet that allegedly killed the policeman.
Following the footage, state Urban Development Minister and Trinamool leader Firhad Hakim had defended Iqbal, saying he did not believe the councillor was "involved in the incident". Hakim's comments attracted severe criticism from the opposition, especially the Communist Party of India-Marxist led Left Front, which even accused Hakim ofbeing "involved" in the incident.
"Because of him (Hakim) those who perpetrated the crime have not been booked or arrested. There are reasons to believe that the minister himself is involved," Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Surjya Kanta Mishra told the media. Narayanan too expressed his reservation over Hakim "shielding" Iqbal, saying: "The minister had no business to do it (shield the councillor)," said the Governor, who visited Chowdhury's home.
Banerjee, who too visited the bereaved family, lost her cool to a media poser about Iqbal's arrest. However, she gave an indication of her displeasure, saying some names were missing from the FIR and that she would enquire about the matter. Banerjee, who visited the policeman's family two days after the incident, offered some relief on compassionate grounds.