Why top cop was axed

Complainant: Mohammad Iqbal alias Munna

Murderer: Mohammad Mukhtar

Accidental victim: Sub-inspector Tapas Chowdhury

Ranjit Kumar Pachnanda was removed as police commissioner for not framing the FIR in the Garden Reach murder as dictated by a Trinamul minister and approved by the party leadership on Tuesday afternoon, The Telegraph has learnt.

"The commissioner was repeatedly told by a Trinamul leader on Tuesday afternoon that the FIR must state that Mukhtar was the shooter, Munna his target and sub-inspector Chowdhury died in the line of fire trying to save Munna," said a senior member of the police team that carried out the arrests from Garden Reach later that day.

Instead, he ordered the arrest of several goons with Trinamul links, named Munna (Trinamul councillor of Ward 134 and ally of Firhad Hakim) in the FIR of Chowdhury's murder and did not mention Mukhtar (a former CPM henchman who has now switched to the Congress) in the murder case.

This not only cost Pachnanda his job but also prompted a punishment posting as director (security), which sources said he was unlikely to take up in order to avoid "humiliation" at the hands of the chief minister, for whose security he would be directly responsible. He would, instead, try for a posting in Delhi, the sources said.

The commissioner was, apparently, "shocked" at the idea of a false FIR to save some Trinamul goons after a colleague had been killed on duty.

Shock led to "horror" when the same diktat came from the top.

When the police force ' led by the commissioner ' tried to tell the Trinamul leadership that officers on the spot had seen the shooting and Mukhtar had nothing to do with it, the witnesses were branded as "CPM officers".

When the TV footage of Abdus Subhan shooting the sub-inspector was referred to, ABP Ananda and 24 Ghanta were dismissed as "CPM channels".

With the force rallying behind him, Pachnanda defied the diktat. The FIR was filed against the accused and 10 persons, many with Trinamul links, were rounded up.

On Tuesday night itself, the Trinamul leadership conveyed to the commissioner that his time was up ' for naming Munna in the FIR and arresting "the wrong people".

The sacking was made official less than 48 hours later by the chief minister on her return from Digha.

Pachnanda did not report for duty as director (security) on Friday, having applied for and been granted leave till the end of the month.

Why?

The personal reason: "For his ailing mother," said a source.

The professional reason: "Taking up the new post would leave him open to humiliation from the chief minister every day on duty. He would rather leave the state altogether and spend his last five years in service with his head held high," said a colleague.

Head held high is how Pachnanda left Lalbazar on Thursday night, after Mamata Banerjee chose to sack him ' ostensibly for failing to arrest all the criminals named in the FIR for the murder of the sub-inspector in Garden Reach on Tuesday.

"No one in the force believes the official reason given by the chief minister," said a senior officer.

As director of security, Pachnanda would be responsible for Mamata's security. His predecessor Virendra would report for duty at Mamata's Kalighat residence in the morning, wait outside in a small room, then follow her to Writers', spend the day at his chamber on the first floor of Writers' till she made her next move, and then shadow her everywhere.

"The former commissioner has been deliberately posted there to reduce him to a glorified havildar at the chief minister's beck and call," said an officer. "This is the price a commissioner pays for doing his duty and standing up for a colleague who has been murdered in daylight by goons of the ruling party."

What message has the commissioner's sacking sent out to the force?

"If the commissioner of police can be sacked for arresting a few Trinamul goons, why will any officer ever arrest a goon with Trinamul links?" demanded an officer.

Another officer, "demoralised and disgusted" by the government's actions in the past 48 hours, put it bluntly: "The next time an officer sees a woman being raped, he will politely ask the goon, 'are you Trinamul?'. If the goon says 'yes', the officer will say, 'please carry on'. For, in this city, the Trinamul is above the law."

For 48 hours after the death of sub-inspector Chowdhury, though, some Trinamul goons in Garden Reach were not above the law. Pachnanda acted like "a true commissioner" and the force rallied around him to telling effect.

No wonder the police commissioner got the "ultimate applause" on Thursday evening from his force in Lalbazar. First, senior officers came into his room to salute him for doing what was right. Then, as he was leaving, around 9.30pm, the corridors were packed with policemen, many with tears in their eyes. Pachnanda's voice was choked with emotion while thanking them.

"The chief minister's actions have made him a martyr. And for the force, he leaves a hero after 48 glorious hours," an officer said.

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