Calcutta, Jan. 17: The road leading to Science City has turned out to be an unsafe stretch for Arabul Islam in a state where police would not touch him for 11 long days.
The former Trinamul MLA's formidable reputation was somewhat dented today with the police claiming that Arabul subjected himself to arrest "without resistance" when he was "intercepted" at the Science City crossing around 12.30pm.
"We asked him to get off the vehicle and accompany us to the police jeep. He did not resist," said a police officer who was in the team that arrested the man who is accused of hitting veteran CPM legislator Abdur Rezzak Mollah, leading one of the worst arson attacks in the state and landing Mamata Banerjee in one of the most embarrassing stand-offs in her career.
After the belated arrest, Arabul can now also claim that because of him, Mamata has come close to taking the rare step of admitting she was wrong all these 11 days.
Two complaints had been lodged against Arabul ' the first on the alleged attack on Mollah in Kantatala in Bhangar and the other on allegedly attacking and opening fire on a CPM convoy in Bamanghata last week.
Arabul has been remanded in police custody for five days by Baruipur additional chief judicial magistrate Himika Das Banerjee. He is lodged in a lock-up at Sonarpur police station.
The arrest came a little over a week after governor M.K. Narayanan described the incidents at Bhangar in South 24-Parganas as "a kind of goondaism" and said "action has to be taken and will be taken".
Although police sources gave colourful descriptions of how Arabul was arrested, none could explain what prevented law-enforcement agencies from doing so for nearly a fortnight. Arabul had addressed a Trinamul public meeting a day after Mollah was attacked. The former Trinamul MLA (who is still addressed as bidhayak or legislator) was in hospital after the arson attack and he was roaming free once discharged last week.
Asked why it took so long to act, a senior police officer said: "The decision to arrest Arabul was not made by the police. It was a political decision."
No one is certain if any single factor led the Trinamul leadership to clear the arrest at a time many leaders had felt Arabul would be an "asset" during the panchayat polls.
Senior ministers and some Trinamul leaders cited a host of reasons, largely based on guesses and interpretations after reading the political tea leaves.
The government did not want to strengthen an impression that it was condoning the assault on a "Haji" (a person who has undertaken the Haj pilgrimage, which Mollah had done last year). Trinamul dissident MP Kabir Suman was making the party squirm by referring to that repeatedly. Mamata did not want to gift the Opposition such ammunition ahead of the upcoming panchayat polls.
Speculation also swirled around another theory: whether the government was clearing the ground for a crackdown on CPM satraps before the rural polls. Arabul himself had filed a counter-complaint, and since action has been taken against him, little prevents the police from acting on his charges against Mollah's lieutenants.
Mamata did not want the hospitalised Mollah to become a rallying point for the Left. A steady stream of Left leaders, including Mollah's critic Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, has been flowing to the hospital. This morning, it was the turn of CPM general secretary Prakash Karat.
The government may have assured the governor that action would be taken as he had asserted in public, following which Narayanan has been showing signs of warmth.
The Trinamul government wanted to convey a message that it was "impartial" and would act against anyone accused of wrongdoing, irrespective of party colours. This has been the mantra in the immediate aftermath of the Assembly poll landslide but it was soon drowned in a series of ham-handed steps against critics of the government.
Mamata wanted to draw a distinction between the government and the party. The government will let the law take its course while the party will continue to defend Arabul. "This is Mamata Banerjee. She did not look into the political colour before taking action," said Madan Mitra, state transport and sports minister. "The law will take its own course."
While being led to Baruipur court, Arabul told reporters in response to questions: "I will not say anything. Whatever has to be said will be done by my party."
Trinamul Congress leader and lawyer Baishanar Chatterjee accompanied by a battery of lawyers reached the court to defend Arabul who was not brought into the courtroom but kept in the court lock-up.
Assistant public prosecutor Rafique Ahmed Mollah told the court: "The nature of the allegations against the accused is very serious. We are praying for a police remand for seven days."
But defence lawyer Chatterjee said: "He (Arabul) is a respectable citizen and had once been an elected representative of the people. He will not run away. There is no point taking him into police custody."
Another defence lawyer, Hafizul Rehman, said charges under the Arms Act had been brought against Arabul "but the police have not yet found any arms to prove their accusation".