West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s protest to “save the Constitution” ended on Tuesday evening. She had started the sit-in late on Sunday after the CBI’s attempt to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with two chit fund scams.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation not to take coercive action against Kumar, including arresting him. It also asked the police officer to cooperate with the officials investigating the scams.
The stand-off between the state and the investigation agency began after a CBI team reached Kumar’s home to question him. Police officials stopped them and detained five members of the team for around two hours. Banerjee came out in Kumar’s support and called the CBI action a “coup” by the Centre.
6.45 pm: Mamata Banerjee says she has “great respect” for the CBI and urges it to speed up its investigation into the theft of the 1913 Nobel Prize medal of Rabindranath Tagore with the same alacrity with which the agency executes orders from PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.
The Nobel medal was stolen from Shantiniketan in 2004 and is yet to be recovered.
Banerjee claims that once those being blackmailed by the BJP join the saffron party, the cases lodged against them are dismissed. “Once you join the BJP, then there will be no cases,” she says. “There will be no CBI, no Enforcement Directorate, no Income Tax Department against you.”
6.42 pm: Naidu continues to extend support to his West Bengal counterpart. “If there is any event after this, I will always be with Mamata Banerjee,” he says. “Now if the NDA wants to do anything, they will have to think twice.”
6.40 pm: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who addressed the crowd with Banerjee, praises her. “If you want to arrest police commissioner, it means you want to control them. You can’t control them,” he says. “A bad situation is prevailing in the nation. No one can do what Mamata di has done.”
Naidu alleges that anybody raising their voice against the government is put in jail. “Is this Emergency? We are with Mamata Banerjee,” he says. “We will protect India, we will protect democracy, we will protect federalism.”
6.35 pm: “They (central government) want to control all the agencies, including the state agencies also,” says Mamata Banerjee, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to return to Gujarat, which he headed as chief minister from 2001 to 2014. “One-man government, one-party government is there.”
6.24 pm: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announces her decision to end the sit-in protest, according to ANI. “This dharna is a victory for the Constitution and democracy, so, let us end it today,” she says.
“The [Supreme] Court gave a positive judgement today,” she says. “Next week, we will continue to take up the issue in Delhi.”
6.05 pm: Sushil Kumar Modi urges the Centre to immediately place Rajeev Kumar under suspension for joining Banerjee in the dharna. “A serving officer is not supposed to indulge in such acts,” he says.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has asked the state government to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Kumar for violating All India Service Rules.
6 pm: Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi slams Mamata Banerjee for staging the dharna to protest against the CBI’s attempts to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar. When the CBI had earlier questioned Trinamool Congress ministers and MPs, Banerjee did not have any problems, he says.
“This makes me wonder whether she is scared that he may divulge some of her unsavoury secrets,” says Modi, accusing Banerjee of helping “revive” the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front with a view to dividing anti-BJP votes in the Lok Sabha elections.
5.35 pm: Tejashwi Yadav claims that Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi had fled the country with people’s money. “Where was the CBI then? Former CBI Director Alok Verma said he was pressured to file cases against political opponents,” says Yadav.
5.30 pm: Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav, who visited Banerjee and spoke at the dharna, says PM Modi has no answer when asked what he has done for the country. “That is why he is harassing opposition leaders and putting them in jail,” says Yadav.
The BJP should launch a probe against Amit Shah’s son to prove their honesty, says the Bihar leader. “But they won’t probe Amit Shah’s son. They will probe only those who stand against Modi ji, those who speak the truth,” says Yadav. “Then I will acknowledge you are honest.”
5.25 pm: Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu addresses the crowd at the venue of the dharna in Kolkata. “Mamata Banerjee is the main pillar of the Opposition, her party will win all 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal,” says the Andhra Pradesh chief minister.
Naidu says that everyone must unite to protect democracy, according to the Hindustan Times. “The BJP is blaming everybody for corruption except Modi and Shah,” he says. “See how they are harassing madam [Mamata Banerjee].”
5.20 pm: Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, meanwhile, says there is no democracy in West Bengal. “It’s with the help of the ruling government that people were looted off in the chit fund scam,” he says. “This police commissioner [Rajeev Kumar] is Mamata’s servant, he will do whatever she says.”
The Congress earlier expressed solidarity with Banerjee. “The happenings in Bengal are a part of the unrelenting attack on India’s institutions by Mr Modi and the BJP,” Congress President Rahul Gandhi had tweeted on Sunday. “The entire opposition will stand together & defeat these fascist forces.”
5.15 pm: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, addressing a rally in Purulia, accuses Mamata Banerjee of running a corrupt and undemocratic government in the state. “Nothing can be more shameful for a democracy than a chief minister sitting on a dharna,” he says.
Adityanath also accuses Banerjee of protecting a corrupt police officer like Rajeev Kumar and alleges that the state government is in the grip of anarchy. “We won by such a huge margin in Uttar Pradesh, there was no violence,” he says. “Bengal is gripped by political violence.”
5.05 pm: It has been made clear in the last 24 hours that the democratic republic is being systematically hollowed out and destroyed, claims Akhilesh Yadav.
“The formula is simple – unfriendly politicians in power are to be embroiled in legal battles, buried under false charges, attacked as anti-national and seditious, and their states set aflame using sectarian methods at the disposal of the government,” he has written in the open letter.
5 pm: Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav says the developments in West Bengal are a cause of concern for all citizens regardless of their political affiliation, according to PTI.
“The attack on the state of West Bengal is not only an attack on the values and tenets of the Constitution but also an attack on the dreams of our founding fathers,” Yadav has written in an open letter. “They are same founding fathers who the BJP is desperate to co-opt into their narrative, because they have no link whatsoever to the Constitution and, therefore, the values its espouses.”
4.35 pm: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath tells ANI that the West Bengal government is embroiled in undemocratic and unconstitutional activities. “That is the reason why a ‘sanyasi’ and ‘yogi’ like me is not being allowed to step on the soil of Bengal,” he says.
Adityanath is currently on his way to Purulia district in West Bengal, where he is scheduled to address a rally. He will reach Purulia by road from Bokaro in Jharkhand after the West Bengal government on Sunday did not allow his chopper to land.
4.30 pm: The Ministry of Home Affairs has asked the West Bengal government to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar for violation of All India Service Rules, according to IANS.
The ministry is the cadre-controlling authority of Indian Police Service officers and has asked the West Bengal chief secretary to initiate the process.
4.15 pm: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu arrives in Kolkata, reports ANI. The Telegu Desam Party chief on Monday had alleged that the government’s action against Banerjee had been motivated by the “great success” of the United India rally in Kolkata on January 19.
4.05 pm: Activists of the Youth Congress and National Students’ Union of India protest outside the CBI office in Guwahati in Assam.
4 pm: Union minister Smriti Irani claims that West Bengal currently exists in “a state of lawlessness”.
“The anarchist CM intervened in the process of collection of evidence by officers, upon whose instructions officers were heckled, manhandled and detained, their families harassed, their homes surrounded,” she says.
Irani also criticises Banerjee’s statement claiming “a moral victory” after the Supreme Court earlier ordered that no coercive steps be taken against Rajeev Kumar. “With egg on her face, to celebrate it as a moral victory is a dichotomy that is only available in the realms of Mamata Banerjee’s politics,” says Irani.
3.50 pm: Giriraj Singh accuses Mamata Banerjee of trying to bring down the federal structure. “She spread terrorism,” alleges the BJP leader. “Today the Supreme Court made it clear that they will have to cooperate with the CBI. This was a drama against [PM Narendra] Modi in the name of the CBI.”
Singh claims the public is with Modi even though the Opposition parties are uniting in fear of the prime minister.
3.45 pm: Union minister Giriraj Singh describes Mamata Banerjee as “super nautanki [drama] master” and says a chief minister sitting on a dharna with a police commissioner will be the “misfortune” of India’s democracy, according to PTI.
“Mamata Banerjee knew everything. Mamata Banerjee did this drama to give a jolt to opposition groups,” he says. “She is a ‘super nautanki master’.”
3.25 pm: Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury alleges both the BJP and Trinamool were complicit in “sharing the spoils” of the chit fund scam and says the stand-off is not a spat between the central government and the state.
“In this instance, when the judiciary orders the CBI to investigate a case, the CBI’s movement in the investigation into any state or territory cannot be construed as an attack on the authority or the powers of the state government,” he says. “What is objectionable if when the CBI suo moto takes action and investigates without permission of the state government. That would be a violation. That is not the case here.”
3.15 pm: Union Minister Arun Jaitley describes Mamata Banerjee’s protest as a “disproportionate over-reaction” and alleges that Opposition leaders supporting her are part of a “kleptocrat’s club” aspiring to capture the reigns of power.
“The court monitored these investigations. The CBI has interrogated and even arrested some people. Many have been granted bail,” Jaitley writes in a Facebook post. “If a police officer is also required to be interrogated, how does it become a super emergency, assault on federalism, or destruction of institutions?”
Jaitley says the chit fund fraud was unearthed in 2012-’13 and the Supreme Court had handed the investigation over to the CBI.
2.55 pm: The Rajya Sabha has been adjourned for the second day amid protests by Opposition parties over the alleged misuse of the CBI in West Bengal.
2.53 pm: “Some media are saying that Police Commissioner will have to face the CBI,” Banerjee says, according to The Hindu. “This is nothing new. We are always ready to cooperate.”
“The Kolkata police chief will not face the CBI but will speak to the agency... please do not distort the truth,” she says. “Everyone has the court order. Why are you saying that the police commissioner will face the CBI?” she tells media.
2.50 pm: Mamata Banerjee says she will speak to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who is set to join Banerjee in Kolkata, and leaders of other parties to decide on the next step, reports News18.
2.47 pm: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee says she has not denied permission for Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath’s rally in the state, reports Hindustan Times. “He [Amit Shah] was unwell, even then came and addressed rallies, then why are they claiming that we are not letting them hold rallies,” she says during the dharna.
2.43 pm: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik says no one from Trinamool Congress has contacted him over the CBI action in West Bengal, reports ANI. “”We would like CBI to do a professional&non political job.”
1.45 pm: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal alleged that Narendra Modi is harassing Banerjee and others. “They had conducted raids at my residence, at my secretary’s house too,” he told reporters. “Now he is doing the same with Mamata Banerjee.”
1.20 pm: Assam BJP minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, a former Trinamool Congress leader, says he was pained by the “frivolous and baseless campaign” by Mamata Banerjee against him. On Sunday, Banerjee had claimed that Sarma was involved in the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam. Sarma had joined the BJP during the investigation into the scam.
“I am not fortunate enough like your Police Commissioner,” Sarma writes on Twitter. “I’ve joined the investigations and offered my full cooperation as a witness. And all this happened much much before I joined.”
1.10 pm: BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya says the Supreme Court order is a “victory of democracy”. He also demands the resignation of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. He alleges that the Trinamool Congress government and the West Bengal Police have repeatedly created hurdles during the investigations into the chit fund scams.
12.24 pm: Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya says Banerjee has put “democracy in peril” in West Bengal. “Someone occupying a constitutional post is violating the federal structure of the country,” Maurya tells PTI. “This certainly does not augur well for the democracy of the country.”
12.12 pm: The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were adjourned amid uproar over the stand-off between CBI and the West Bengal government. This is the second consecutive day the Houses were adjourned because of the controversy.
12.10 pm: Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge accuses the Centre of “settling scores” with the opposition. “We are fighting those elements... It is not about an individual, an officer or a party, we are fighting against government’s attempt to discredit autonomous bodies,” he says.
11.59 am: The Shiv Sena says it has differences with Mamata Banerjee and her party but she is “indeed hitting back at the Centre with equal force”.
11.56 am: The Shiv Sena alleges the ongoing tussle between the West Bengal government and the CBI was orchestrated for political gains ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. The party claims the BJP was going to fall short of 100 Lok Sabha seats from north India to Maharashtra in the General Elections.
“To fill the gap, the BJP has laid its hopes on states like West Bengal to win 10 to 15 seats...all this is being orchestrated with an eye on the Lok Sabha polls,” Shiv Sena says in its party mouthpiece Saamana.
11.54 am: Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad says the Supreme Court’s order is a “moral victory for the CBI”. We have to ask larger questions on behlaf of the party, he says. “Lakhs of small investors were cheated and looted off their money,” ANI quotes Prasad as saying. “Is it not our moral obligation for an investigation? Why is Mamata ji silent on this? Why are the other political parties silent on this?”
11.50 am: Banerjee says she will ask other leaders whether to continue the dharna. “Today Chandrababu Naidu is also coming, I will consult other leaders also. I will also consult Naveen Patnaik, then I will let you know,” she says.
11.28 am: Mamata Banerjee says she will direct Rajeev Kumar to make himself available and fully cooperate with the investigation. “Rajeev Kumar never said he will not be available,” ANI quotes Banerjee as saying. “He said we want to meet at mutual place, if you want to ask for any clarification, you can come and we can sit.”
On the top court’s order that no coeracive steps should be taken against Kumar, Banerjee says it is a “moral victory” for her government. “We have great respect for judiciary and all institutions. We are so grateful. We are so obliged.”
11.23 am: Meanwhile, the Calcutta High Court adjourns the hearing in the plea filed by West Bengal government challenging the CBI’s attempt to enter Kolkata police chief’s home, reports PTI. State Advocate General Kishore Dutta says since the Supreme Court is hearing the CBI’s plea, the matter must be adjourned in the High Court.
11.10 am: The Supreme Court issues contempt notice to Rajeev Kumar, Director General of Police and West Bengal government, ANI reports. The matter will be heard next on February 20.
11.09 am: The Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi-led bench directs CBI not to take coercive steps, including arrest, against Rajeev Kumar. Questioning must be done at the neutral place, the court says.
11.02 am: Attorney General KK Venugopal says there is a serious breakdown of law and order. “Can the state police confront Centre’s police which is acting pursuant to orders of this court,” Venugopal says. “Your Lordships have to issue notice for contempt and also lay down law in this regard.”
11 am: The court orders Kumar to appear before the CBI and co-operate with the inquiry at all times, reports Bar and Bench. The court asks Rajeev Kumar to appear before the CBI at a neutral place, Shillong.
10.58 am: Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi says the court will ask Rajeev Kumar to cooperate with the investigation, reports Live Law. Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for West Bengal claims in the court that the whole episode was an attempt to harass and humiliate the state government, reports Bar and Bench.
10.54 am: The Supreme Court has started hearing the CBI’s plea, reports PTI.
10.30 am: The CBI files its affidavit in the Supreme Court ahead of the hearing. It claimed it had found incriminating material with senior police officials and politicians. The investigation was done by an SIT and crucial evidence was handed over to the main accused in the Saradha scam case by the investigating officer, who was working under Rajeev Kumar’s supervision, reports ANI.
9.25 am: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is set to join Banerjee by Tuesday afternoon, News18 reports.
8.45 am: Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath will address a rally in Purulia district of West Bengal on Tuesday. The state government had earlier denied permission to Adityanath to land his chopper in South Dinajpur, ANI reports. The Uttar Pradesh chief minister will fly to Jharkhand on Tuesday and will travel to Purulia from there by road.
8 am: The West Bengal unit of Congress will organise a protest rally on February 6 demanding immediate conclusion in the investigation of Saradha, Rose Valley and other chit fund scam cases, ANI reports.
7.55 am: The CBI has filed a contempt petition in the Supreme Court against the West Bengal chief secretary, director general of police and Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar. The agency has claimed that Kumar has been destroying evidence. The agency says it is working under a hostile environment in the state.
The Supreme Court will hear the CBI’s plea on Tuesday.
7.52 am: Banerjee has said her demonstration will continue till February 8, days before the state board examinations are scheduled to begin.
7.50 am: Opposition leaders Tejashwi Yadav and Kanimozhi visited Mamata Banerjee at the protest site on Monday night to extend support to her.
Kanimozhi, a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader, said the Opposition is against the “fascist BJP government”. “People won’t accept this divisiveness and communal hatred that they are spreading to stay in power,” The Hindu quotes Kanimozhi as saying.
7.35 am: Several Opposition parties have come out in support of Banerjee’s demonstration. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, Congress’ Rahul Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal are among the leaders who have extended support to Banerjee.
7.30 am: Here’s the sequence of events so far.
On Sunday, as a team of 40 CBI officers reached the police commissioner’s residence to question him in connection with the chit fund scams. The agency alleged that Kumar had not cooperated in the investigations.
The stand-off quickly escalated into a political battle, with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launching a dharna to protest against what she claimed was an assault on the state’s autonomy. The CBI officers were detained by the Kolkata police; CBI Joint Director Pankaj Srivastava accused the police of laying siege to his home in the city.
On Monday, the CBI approached the Supreme Court, alleging that law and order had broken down in West Bengal. The Supreme Court said it will hear the plea on Tuesday.