A hunt is on in West Bengal for a Trinamool Congress councillor Mohmmad Iqbal, who has been named in a first information report on the death of a policeman during clashes between Congress and Trinamool workers at a city college on Tuesday.
In video footage of the clashes, Mr Iqbal is seen standing next to a man called Sheikh Shubhaan when the latter fired the bullet that the police say killed Sub Inspector Tapas Chaudhuri. Mr Shubhaan is among 12 people who have been arrested so far. Mr Iqbal has been charged with abetment to murder.
The councillor, who is said to enjoy high political patronage, might surrender soon, sources said.
Yesterday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee removed Kolkata's police chief RK Pachanda and said she was angry that people named in the FIR had not been arrested. She did not say if she meant her partyman Mr Iqbal. She could also have been talking about Mokhtar, a local rowdy with links to the Congress, who is also missing.
Soon after Tuesday's violent clash, the Trinamool alleged that Mr Mokhtar and his men were responsible for the sub inspector's death. But Mr Mokhtar has been booked for rioting in a different FIR. The cop was shot dead while trying to break up the clashes.
Ms Banerjee's detractors have alleged that Mr Pachanda was removed as Commissioner because he wanted to arrest some members of her party in connection with the policeman's death. Mr Iqbal is known to be close to the state's Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim, who in turn is close to the CM.
The state's Governor M K Narayanan slammed Mr Hakim's alleged attempt to shield Mr Iqbal yesterday, saying he had "no business doing it." Mr Narayanan was visiting the family of the policeman killed on Tuesday. He also criticised Mr Pachanda's transfer saying, "If the Kolkata police commissioner was removed for what happened in the last few days, quite clearly there is something wrong and we need to look into it."
The state government yesterday handed the case to the Crime Investigation Department (CID), but the Congress has demanded an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation. "We demand a CBI inquiry for an independent probe. All culprits should be booked immediately irrespective of their political affiliations, may be a minister or borough chairman," said Congress MP Deepa Dasmunshi.
She also suggested that the Mamata Banerjee administration accord priority to the "arrest of the main culprits and those responsible for instigating it, over transferring police officers."