Law’s short hand

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The Calcutta High Court has asked the CBI to reopen the mysterious Rizwanur death case, but it is unlikely to go anywhere, says  Partha Dasgupta

Missed chance Rukbanur with Mamata Banerjee during the civic poll campaign; a file photo of Priyanka Todi and Rizwanur (below)
Photo: Pintu Pradhan

FOR THREE years, the unanimous public verdict was that Rizwanur (Riz) Rahman did not take his own life on September 21, 2007. On May 18 this year, the Calcutta High Court (HC) declared void the earlier CBI findings into Riz’s mysterious death and asked CBI to probe the incident again. While ‘suicide’ was the earlier conclusion, the premise for this probe has to be ‘murder’.

Upen Biswas, ex-director, CBI, says, “Theoretically, an investigation never ends, but legally it has to end somewhere. I am not sure what extra information the CBI will gather with the same set of evidence.” The biggest question mark is on the status of the seven men accused of ‘driving to despair and suicide’, the computer graphics trainer who dared to fall in love with, and secretly married Priyanka, daughter of businessman Ashok Todi, who owns the Rs 400- crore Lux Hosiery.

The accused include Prasun Mukherjee, the then Kolkata Police Commissioner and three of his men, including Ajay Kumar, another IPS officer. They intervened in the perfectly legal marriage and at the behest of Todi, hounded Riz to end the marriage and return Priyanka to her posh Salt Lake house. A distraught Riz, whose two-room hovel in the Muslim ghetto of Tiljala in central Kolkata is next to a railway line, was hit by a speeding train a good 10 km from his house, the CBI found.

“The accused then, are not the accused now. They can challenge government actions against them and this may result in complications,” Biswas says. One such stay order, brought by Ashok Todi, has been rejected already. The possibility of the CBI resubmitting documents from the previous probe cannot be ruled out either, what with the agency’s credibility under a cloud. “The only thing that the new board can do differently is exhume Riz’s body to reexamine the cause of death,” believes Biswas.

THE SOCIO-POLITICAL fallouts of the tragedy have been significant in the last three years. Riz’s death came close on the heels of the Nandigram violence, when the whole of Bengal vented its ire on the police-industrialist nexus. Mamata Banerjee, Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader, was quick to use his tragic death as a weapon in her electoral quiver. She kept the issue alive for three years, and catapulted Rukbanur, Riz’s elder brother, into the political limelight, giving him a ticket to contest ward 65 in the recently held polls to Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC). While TMC pulled off a stunning sweep, Rukbanur was defeated by more than 3,500 votes.

“Voters possibly did not take too kindly to the politicisation of a tragedy,” says Miratun Nahar, activist and professor of philosophy. But the Nandigram by-polls saw Feroza Bibi, a ‘martyr’s mother’ and TMC candidate win by over 50,000 votes. “Hers was a more direct loss and so the voters were sympathetic. Plus the election was a part of the movement that was Nandigram. This, on the other hand, was an isolated case and Rukbanur as an individual was believed to be gaining,” says Nahar.

Rukbanur, expectedly, does not buy the argument. “Eleven independent candidates were planted to defeat me. The electorate in this ward is mostly illiterate and gullible, and fell prey to the lure of money,” he observes.

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