Bengal MLA found hanging, incident sets off political storm

Kolkata:  A West Bengal MLA was found dead under mysterious circumstances near his home in North Dinajpur district on Monday, an incident his family and the BJP claimed was a “cold-blooded murder”, and blamed the ruling TMC for it.

The body of Debendra Nath Ray, in his 60s, was found hanging from the ceiling of a verandah outside a shuttered shop near his home in Bindal village in Hemtabad area of the district, police said.

Ray had won the Hemtabad (reserved) seat on a CPI-M ticket in 2016 but later joined the BJP. He had, however, not quite his assembly seat.

Both his family and the state BJP unit demanded CBI inquiry into the incident.

West Bengal police said a suicide note was found from his shirt pocket where he blamed two people for his death.

According to police sources, the investigation has been handed over to CID, although an official order is yet to be made public.

The BJP leader’s family has demanded a CBI inquiry into the incident, saying they suspected he was murdered.

“We suspect he was murdered. There should be a CBI inquiry into the killing,” a family member demanded.

Ray’s death whipped up a political storm, with the BJP branding it murder by “TMC goons” and calling a 12-hour shutdown in entire North Bengal, including North Dinajpur district, from 6 am on Tuesday.

BJP national president J P Nadda termed the incident a “suspected heinous killing”, and alleged that it showed the “Gunda raj and failure of law and order” machinery under Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

“The suspected heinous killing of Debendra Nath Ray, BJP MLA from Hemtabad in West Bengal is extremely shocking and deplorable. This speaks of the Gunda Raj & failure of law and order in the Mamta govt. People will not forgive such a govt in the future. We strongly condemn this,” he tweeted.

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Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, often accused by the ruling TMC of being an “agent of the BJP in Raj Bhavan”, said political violence and vendetta seem to continue unabated in the state.

“Political violence and vendetta @MamataOfficial shows no signs of abating. Death of Debendra Nath Roy, Hemtabad MLA-Uttar Dinajpur District raises serious issues, including allegations of murder. Need for a thorough, impartial probe to unravel the truth and blunt political violence,” Dhankhar said in a tweet.

State BJP president Dilip Ghosh demanded that Banerjee, who holds the home portfolio, issue a statement on the “cold- blooded murder”.

“This is a cold-blooded murder by the goons of the TMC. The TMC was wary of Ray’s popularity in the area. We want an independent inquiry to bring out the truth. You can very well understand the state’s law and order situation when even an MLA is not safe,” Ghosh said.

“A BJP delegation led by Ghosh also met Dhankhar and sought his intervention for a CBI inquiry into the incident.

“BJP Sr leaders MP Dilip Ghosh, Rahul Sinha and others called on me and sought CBI investigation of political murder of Hematabad MLA Debendra Nath Roy. Delegation expressed concern at Supari postings of police officials-tasked to harass and liquidate opposition leaders.

“Incident has sent shock waves. Have impressed @MamataOfficial for fair investigation. Police Officials cannot be law unto themselves or politically motivated Inappropriate and demeaning treatment of opposition MPs and leaders by police officials will not be countenanced,” Dhankhar tweeted after meeting the delegation.

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Police, however, insisted prima facie it was a case of death by suicide.

“Today morning the dead body of MLA Hemtabad Debendra Nath Roy was detected hanging from the verandah ceiling of a mobile shop at Balia, Deben More, Raigunj, Uttar Dinajpur. A suicide note is recovered from the shirt pocket of the deceased. Two persons have been named in the note as responsible for his death,” the state police said on its twitter handle.

It said a tracker dog had been pressed into service and forensic experts are on the job. Postmortem is yet to be done.

“People are requested not to jump on speculative, biased and judgmental conclusions and to wait for the investigation to complete,” it said in another tweet.

TMC leader and state minister Firhad Hakim rejected the demand for a CBI inquiry, and said the state police and CID were efficient enough to investigate the case.

TMC district unit chief Kanailal Agarwal refused to be drawn into the controversy and said the probe would unravel the truth about whether Ray committed suicide or there was “something else”.

The statement of state police notwithstanding, BJP national general secretary in charge of West Bengal Kailash Vijayvargiya insisted he was “assassinated”.

“It is a condemnable and cowardly act. During the rule of Mamata Banerjee, the killings of BJP leaders have become the order of the day. Hemtabad MLA Debendra Nath Ray was assassinated. His body was found hanging. Was joining BJP his only crime?” Vijayvargiya tweeted.

The BJP took out a rally in Kolkata on Monday to protest over the death of Ray and demanded a CBI inquiry. PTI PNT SCH SK

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