CPI(ML) Red Star national general secretary K N Ramachandran resurfaced in New Delhi on Tuesday, around 42 hours after “disappearing” from Howrah railway station in Kolkata on Sunday, claiming he was abducted by “intelligence officials” and warned to stay away from Bhangar. “It was a kidnapping…,” he said, speaking at the CPI(ML) Red Star Office at 141, Sainik Nagar in Delhi. Ramachandran alleged his “kidnappers” had told him they were officers from central intelligence agencies, and that they had been “instructed by New Delhi” to pick him up.
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The leader had been on his way to Bhangar, where protests over land acquisition for a power project had turned violent on January 17, leading to the death of two youths. Ramachandran was to meet the families of the deceased and “show solidarity to the people’s movement”. His disappearance on January 22 left his comrades in a tizzy as they approached the state administration, the police and also visited Kolkata hospitals to see if he had met with an accident.
The Red Star leader had commenced his journey from Lucknow on January 21 after attending a party committee meeting, boarding the Nangaldam Express. “I reached Kolkata at 5.15 pm on January 23 and called my comrades. They were waiting for me at the R G Kar Medical College and Hospital bus stop, so I started walking towards it. Suddenly, I was surrounded by six to seven men. They snatched my attaché and shoved me forcibly into a Tata Sumo. There was another car following us. A man clamped his hand over my mouth, so I couldn’t yell… I don’t know if anyone saw us,” he said, adding he was blindfolded.
“Around two hours later, the car stopped. Even through the blindfold, I knew it was a busy area because I could hear traffic. It was near a masjid, because I could hear the Azaan… some function was also being held to celebrate Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s birthday nearby,” Ramachandran said. The leader claimed his blindfold was removed after he was taken into a two-storey building. He said his “abductors” knew he was headed to Bhangar.
“There were a number of men there… they told me they were central intelligence officers. They told me they had been instructed to send me to Delhi and that the Bhangar project was for the benefit of Bengal and was not to be interrupted. They said the agitation was a movement against Bengal and that they were helping the Bengal government on instructions from the Centre,” he claimed.
That night, the “officers” allegedly gave Ramachandran a bedsheet to sleep on. The next day, Ramachandran claimed he was blindfolded once more. “After three to four hours, they took the blindfold off. I realised they had brought me to Durgapur station. They took my phone and Rs 3,000 that I had with me, and gave me a train ticket to Delhi. They told me not to return to Bengal. On the train, I used the phone of a passenger to call my family and comrades,” he claimed.
While the state police have denied any knowledge of Ramachandran’s disappearance, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Vishal Garg held a meeting with Red Star office-bearers in Kolkata Tuesday morning. “Sankar Das and Rabi Palur had come to meet me regarding the case of K N Ramachandran going missing. They submitted all possible details. We are looking into the matter,” Garg added. Ramachandran will head to Hyderabad on Thursday to attend more meetings. For now, his Bhangar visit has been stalled.