Two police personnel arrested in connection with the murder of a former SFI leader, but his family and opposition parties demand a CBI probe

Published : February 23, 2022 22:17 IST

In Kolkata, police detain students of Aliah University during a protest march over the Anish Khan murder case, on February 22. Photo: PTI

Anish Khan’s family is not happy with the arrests and insists on a court-monitored inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The arrest of two police personnel in connection with the murder of student leader Anish Khan has once again brought to the fore serious lapses in the police administration in West Bengal and the declining law and order situation in the State. On February 18, Anish Khan was thrown off the roof of his residence at Amta in Howrah district, allegedly by four persons in police uniform who had barged into his house and put a gun to his father’s head. Anish Khan’s family, however, is not happy with the arrest and insists on a court-monitored inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

On February 23, five days after Anish Khan’s murder, home guard Kashinath Bera and civic police volunteer Pritam Bhattacharya were arrested. Anish Khan’s father Salem Khan said, "Didi (West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee) has arrested two people who are policemen. But who ordered these policemen to commit the murder? For that we need a CBI probe. I want a CBI probe not just to find out who committed the murder, but also who ordered it."

The murder of Anish Khan, 28, a former leader of the Students’ Federation of India (SFI), sparked widespread outrage and protest in Kolkata and its surrounding areas. The government set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) and suspended three police personnel. However, Anish Khan’s family and the opposition political parties continued to demand a CBI probe. On February 22, Students from various colleges and universities brought parts of Kolkata to a standstill with their protest marches and repeated confrontations with the police. The residents of Amta also held demonstrations demanding a CBI probe. The protests were not restricted to West Bengal alone; on February 23, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) held a demonstration outside Banga Bhavan in New Delhi.

Director General of Police Manoj Malaviya, addressing a press conference on February 23, said, "The SIT is working in an impartial manner. On the basis of evidence collected so far, we have arrested two people – home guard Kashinath Bera, civil volunteer Pritam Bhattacharjee. SIT is going there (Amta) repeatedly to investigate, but is being obstructed. We want to collect the material evidence and move forward with the investigation, so we can bring the whole story in front of you. We feel some political parties out of their own interest are not allowing the family [to cooperate]. When the SIT wanted the mobile phone as material evidence, they refused to hand it over.

Reacting angrily against the demonstrations and the persistent demand for a CBI investigation, Mamata Banerjee said, while announcing the arrest of the two police personnel, "We still do not know what the situation is. The SIT was obstructed when they went to do a post-mortem. But there was a complaint against the police and two police personnel were arrested. I do not know if anything can be proved against them, but the law will take its own course…. The police have started the investigation and the two have been arrested so they cannot influence the investigation. The government is very tough…. I came up through the path of protest, let no one teach me about protests. Yesterday people of Kolkata felt very disturbed…"

Lashing out against the growing demand for a CBI probe, Mamata Banerjee trained her guns on the Communist Party of India (Marxist), saying, "Do not think us to be so weak. If any crime is committed, then no one will be spared. Can the CPI(M) show that they made any arrests during the Nandigram firing? Was anybody arrested after the murder of Tapasi Mallik in Singur? The CBI had investigated that. I am asking this to those who are clamouring for a CBI investigation. Has the CBI been able to retrieve Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel Prize yet? Has anybody got any justice yet? …Just because they are no longer in power they are shouting for a CBI investigation and trying to destabilise the State police force and break their morale. Remember, when there is a robbery in your house, will you not call the police?" Meanwhile, protests continued as students hit the streets again on February 23.

Anish Khan’s murder has also brought back memories of a similar case, in 2007, when the then CPI(M)-led Left Front government came under heavy criticism following the mysterious death of Rizwanur Rahman, a 30-year-old computer graphics trainer who was reportedly driven to suicide allegedly by local politicians and the police following his marriage to the daughter of a prominent Kolkata-based business man. Anish Khan’s family members even showed a clipping to the media of Mamata Banerjee demanding a CBI probe into Rizwanur’s alleged murder.