Kolkata Police and CBI officers engaged in a faceoff on Sunday after the investigative agency tried entering the residence of Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar at Loudon Street in central Kolkata, in order to question him in connection with the Saradha chit fund case. CBI officers were stopped from questioning the police chief. They were taken to a police station, from where they were released after some time. CBI will now approach the Supreme Court on Monday over "no cooperation" by Bengal police, Interim Director M Nageshwar Rao told ANI.
The CBI wanted to question Kumar, who led a Special Investigation Team of West Bengal police probing the Rose Valley and Saradha ponzi scams, regarding certain missing documents and files. According to officials, Kumar did not respond to previous notices asking him to appear before the agency.
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As soon as the showdown hit political circles, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other concerned officials rushed to Kumar's residence on Sunday night and held a meeting.
Banerjee, in a hurriedly called press conference after the meeting, accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah of trying to organise a coup in the state. She also alleged that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was directing the CBI to harass political opponents, as per orders of the prime minister.
The chief minister also announced a "dharna" on Sunday night to "protect the Constitution" and protest against the incident.
"I feel ashamed to talk to such a prime minister who has blood on his hands," she said. "Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are trying to organise a coup in the state as we had organised the opposition rally on January 19. We were aware that the CBI will attack us after we organised the rally," Banerjee said, referring to the Brigade rally attended by leaders of about 20 opposition parties. Banerjee said the CBI's action is politically vindictive.
"Our government arrested chit fund owners when we came to power. It is we who formed an SIT to probe the matter," she said.
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Interim CBI chief M Nageshwar Rao, who spoke to ANI, said there is evidence against Rajeev Kumar and that he has been instrumental in causing destruction of evidence and obstructing justice.
"We are investigating these chit fund cases as per the directions of the SC. An SIT has been constituted by the WB govt prior to SC's direction under the chairmanship of Rajeev Kumar, who is currently the Kolkata police commissioner," he was quoted as saying by ANI.
"They have taken charge of all the evidence, seized all the documents. They have not been cooperating with us in handing over all the documents and a lot of evidence has been destroyed or caused to disappear," he said.
Meanwhile, opposition seems to have united and extended their support to Mamata Banerjee over the incident.
Rahul Gandhi, Omar Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu, Mayawati, Sharad Pawar, and Arvind Kejriwal spoke to Banerjee over phone and expressed their solidarity.
"I spoke with Mamata Di tonight and told her we stand shoulder to shoulder with her. The happenings in Bengal are a part of the unrelenting attack on India’s institutions by Mr Modi & the BJP. The entire opposition will stand together & defeat these fascist forces," the Congress President tweeted late on Sunday.
Kumar, a 1989 batch IPS officer of West Bengal cadre, did not even attend a meeting with Election Commission officials who had gone to Kolkata to meet him regarding election preparedness, sources said. When contacted, his staff claimed Kumar had come to office Friday but had left.
A statement was issued Sunday from Kolkata Police, dismissing reports of him being missing from work. "Please take note that not only is the CP Kolkata available in the city, but has also been attending office on a regular basis, with the exception of January 31, 2019, when he was on leave for a day. All concerned may please take note that if any news is spread without proper verification, Kolkata Police will initiate strict legal action against defamation of both the CP Kolkata and Kolkata Police," the police said.
Earlier in the day too, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had extended her support to the Kolkata Police Commissioner and accused the BJP leadership of pursuing political vendetta.
"The highest levels of the BJP leadership are doing the worst kind of political vendetta. Not only are political parties their targets, they are misusing power to take control of the police and destroy all institutions. We condemn this," Banerjee tweeted.
"The Kolkata Police Commissioner is among the best in the world. His integrity, bravery and honesty are unquestioned. He is working 24x7, and was on leave for only one day recently. When you spread lies, the lies will always remain lies," Banerjee added.