CPI-M leader remanded to CBI custody in Singur killing


Kolkata : A leader of West Bengal's ruling CPI-M, Surhid Dutta, and a party worker were Friday remanded to CBI custody for allegedly raping and murdering a girl in Singur, further escalating tensions with the opposition demanding "exemplary punishment" and the communists labelling it a conspiracy.

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The charred body of 18-year-old Tapasi Malik was recovered Dec 18 from an area fenced off for the upcoming Tata Motors plant in Singur, 40 km from here in Hooghly district.

Dutta, the Singur Zonal Committee secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, was arrested Thursday evening by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for the alleged rape and murder of the activist, amongst those protesting against farmland acquisition for the project.

The main accused in the case is Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) worker Debu Malik, who was in charge of the night guards at the Tata Motors site and was arrested in New Delhi and brought to Kolkata Wednesday night by the CBI.

On Friday, the Chandannagore court in Hooghly remanded the two men to 14 days' custody with the CBI amid heavy security and Trinamool Congress, Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters clashing with the police and demanding capital punishment.

CPI-M patriarch Jyoti Basu refused to comment on the "sub judice" matter. But asked if he would call it a political conspiracy, he said: "Our partymen think so."

CPI-M leaders said the CBI was also involved in the conspiracy to tarnish the image of the party.

The arrest has come as a major setback to the Left Front government's industrialisation policy and the means adopted to pursue it.

It has also given the opposition another stick to beat the government with. Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee said: "A young girl was raped, then killed and then her body burnt in the Tata Motors site just for protesting land acquisition. Now it is proved."

On Tuesday, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya had said the guilty in the killing would be punished irrespective of party affiliation.

"We would want (the) law to take its course in the Tapasi Malik case and the CBI to reach its logical conclusion in the case fast. The guilty should be punished irrespective of party affiliation," Bhattacharya told reporters.

Tapasi, from Bajemelia village in Singur, was an active member of the Save Farmland Committee that was protesting land acquisition in the area for the motor project.

Some 997 acres in Singur have been chosen by Tata Motors for its small car project. The issue has triggered a violent face-off between the government and farmers led by civil society groups and parties like the Trinamool.