The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Sunday arrested another prime suspect in the March 21 massacre case at Bogtui village in West Bengal’s Birbhum district where 10 people, nine of whom were women, were killed.
CBI officials said the man, identified as Lalan Sheikh, was arrested from Jharkhand where he was hiding since March.
A special court in Birbhum’s Rampurhat town remanded him in CBI custody on Sunday afternoon.
In August, the central agency arrested seven suspects for their involvement in the arson. All the victims were members of the Muslim community, the youngest being an eight-year-old girl.
Anarul Hossain, the former Rampurhat community block-1 unit president of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), ‘not only ordered the massacre but also supervised it while keeping the police away’, the CBI said in its charge sheet filed before the Rampurhat court in June.
The 1,192-page charge sheet mentioned eyewitness accounts, security camera footage and statements given by two of the three women who succumbed to burn injuries at the Rampurhat Medical College and Hospital. The other victims, including a man, died at the spot on the night of March 21.
Now in judicial custody, Hossain was arrested by the state police at chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s instructions when she visited Bogtui on March 24. He was charged with murder, arson, rioting with deadly weapons and criminal conspiracy before the CBI took over the investigation following orders from the Calcutta high court on March 25.
Bhadu Sheikh, the deputy chief of the local TMC-controlled Barshal gram panchayat, was killed in a bomb attack near Bogtui around 8.20 pm on March 21. This triggered a retaliatory attack planned by Hossain, said the charge sheet.
Lalan Sheikh was known to be a close aide of Bhadu Sheikh.
The Calcutta high court asked the CBI to probe Bhadu Sheikh’s murder as well.
The CBI filed separate charge sheets in the two crimes, claiming that these were linked. The federal agency named four people as prime accused in Sheikh’s murder and 18 others in the arson case.
The charge sheet said Sheikh’s murder was the fallout of a rivalry between him and his associates over dubious land deals, illegal businesses and share of extortion money.