Calcutta, Jan. 13: An Audi SUV associated with the sons of a Trinamul leader breached multiple barriers at the doorstep of Fort William and flung to death an air force corporal instructing a contingent rehearsing for the Republic Day parade at the gateway of Red Road at daybreak.
Corporal Abhimanyu Gaud, who hailed from Surat in Gujarat and traced his roots to Uttar Pradesh, was 21.
The Audi Q7 is registered in the name of a company called Mussadi Business Pvt Ltd. According to the Registrar of Companies, Ambia Sohrab is an additional director and Tousiff Sohrab, also known as Sambia, is a director of the company.
Ambia and Sambia are the sons of Mohammad Sohrab, a Trinamul leader and a former legislator elected on a ticket from Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal. Sohrab senior is said to wield considerable clout in Burrabazar.
Mohammad Sohrab was spotted sitting near Mukul Roy, who has recently revived public contact with the Trinamul leadership, at the Ghulam Ali concert yesterday.
The SUV and its unidentified occupants had a free run for nearly a kilometre, challenged only by guardrails that were tossed away like matchsticks under high-velocity impact. The wild ride unfolded on what should have been the most secure stretch inCalcutta at all times and particularly after the Pathankot air base attack. (See chart above)
The way the security services responded to a rapidly evolving situation right outside the headquarters of the Eastern Command also stirred alarm. Little other than multiple layers of guardrails could be deployed after a wireless alert that gave the police a lead time of not much but still over 40 precious seconds.
What if the vehicle was ferrying attackers similar to those who struck at Pathankot? What if the vehicle was laden with explosives?
An air force official described the tragedy after the SUV driver took a U-turn, probably after spotting the reinforced, multiple layers of guardrails: "We saw the car heading straight towards us. It hit our instructor who was standing by the roadside while we were marching through the middle of the road. He was flung 20 feet in the air and the vehicle had sped away."
The SUV eventually stopped 200 metres away. But the occupants of the car slipped away - an inexplicable feat on the flat and vast terrain that offers few hiding places and with the nearest available vehicles 400 metres away as traffic was restricted for the annual parade rehearsal.
The police blamed fog but once the political connection of the SUV emerged, allegations invariably were levelled that the suspects were allowed to walk away.
The Regional Met Office at Alipore did not record fog there today but meteorologists said "fog in pockets", especially in open spaces likes the Maidan, could not be ruled out.
Police sources said there were at least six police pickets in the area and a combat battalion armed with Insas rifles. "We are trying to find out if there was any lapse on the part of the policemen on duty," said a senior IPS officer at Lalbazar.
Insiders said a senior deputy commissioner of police was in charge of today's parade rehearsals. At the time of the incident, he was near the flag-hoisting point on Red Road. A clutch of assistant commissioners of police, inspectors and other policemen was present around the area where the incident took place.
"There was no way anyone could identify and even get hold of those who fled after parking the car. Since there were no vehicles at that point of time, police would have to walk down to reach them. From the nearest picket, that would be a walk of around 10 minutes. Others present were a section of morning walkers, who would have no clue to what had happened," said Debasish Boral, the joint commissioner police, crime.
The police were initially reluctant to disclose the ownership but once chief minister Mamata Banerjee said "people who drive cars this way have no right to drive at all", information trickled out.
The chief minister, who visited Command Hospital where the corporal was declared dead, said: "It is very unfortunate. This car had broken three to four barriers. What is this? Who issues licence to such people? I have asked the police to start a murder case."
The police went to the Sohrab residence in Jorasanko but neither the brothers nor their father was at home. "The car belongs to a company owned by Sohrab's sons. But it is yet to be ascertained who was driving it," Boral said.
Police sources said the investigators suspected that Sambia and a grandson of jailed satta don Rashid Khan might have been present in the car. A relative of Khan has been detained for questioning.
On opening the SUV, the police smelt a strong "perfume-like" fragrance. It is not clear whether the fragrant substance was used to mask either alcohol or some object being transported.
The above is from "The Telegraph"