Twenty-four hours after a group of 28 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders and workers detained for trying to enforce a bandh enjoyed mutton curry and rice in police custody, the inspector-in-charge of the Kotwali police station at Jalpaiguri town in north Bengal got transferred to Contai town in East Midnapore district as inspector at a local court.
The two towns are located around 714 kilometres from each other and it is an almost 17-hour road trip from the hill region to East Midnapore located by the Bay of Bengal. It takes around three and a half hours to travel from Jalpaiguri town to Darjeeling.
The BJP workers were detained on Tuesday, a day after the body of Debendranath Roy, the legislator from Hemtabad in the region’s north Dinajpur district, was found hanging from a shed outside a roadside shop.
Roy won the Hemtabad seat on a CPI(M) ticket but joined the BJP in 2019. The state’s main opposition party said he was murdered and called a 12-hour bandh in north Bengal districts.
The Jalpaiguri Lok Sabha seat is among the 18 that the BJP won in Bengal in 2019. The party has grown exponentially in the region. In north Bengal, BJP won seven of the region’s eight Lok Sabha seats while the Congress, despite its limited presence, bagged one.
The 28 BJP workers and leaders were detained by the Jalpaiguri Kotwali police station for trying to enforce the bandh. The hospitality they enjoyed however caught the attention of the administration after photos of the BJP workers enjoying the lunch surfaced on social media.
Biswasroy Sarkar, the inspector-in-charge, received the transfer order on Wednesday. He was not available for comment.
Abhishek Modi, superintendent of police, Jalpaiguri, said the transfer was a departmental matter and did not elaborate.
Some police officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said top officers took exception and ordered an inquiry. “In West Bengal Police, officers are usually transferred to locations within a district or to adjoining districts. This transfer order is a rare one,” said of these officers.
The Kotwali police reportedly told the BJP workers that they would be released against personal bond in the afternoon and asked what they would like to have for lunch.
Manash Mustafi, president of BJP’s Mazdoor Morcha in Jalpaiguri district, who was also detained, said, “Some of us wanted to have mutton and rice.” The food, he said, arrived from a local eatery.
Gautam Dey, the BJP spokesperson in north Bengal, said, “The police usually offers food to people who are kept in custody for long hours. In this case they were asked to express their choice.”
“The transfer order shows how the growing popularity of the BJP prior to the 2021 assembly elections has panicked TMC leaders,” Dey added.
BJP’s Jalpaiguri district unit president Bapi Goswami said, “BJP workers were offered food of their choice in many police stations, not just the Kotwali.”
The district TMC leadership tried to distance itself from the incident.
Saurav Chakraborty, TMC legislator from Alipurduar, said “We do not have details of the incident yet.”