Shootout At Short Street

The shootout at Short Street, Kolkata:

The silence of the wintry morning of November 11th, 2013 in Short Street was shattered by a volley of gunfire, when the Headmistress of the Young Minds – a Montessori school in 5A Short Street, and her security personnel fired upon a bunch of trespassers, killing two and severely injuring three. Rumors are that, the incidents that took place in the premises of the Montessori school in 5A Short Street, a stone’s throw from the residence of the Police Commissioner and in the close proximity of the high security zone of the American Embassy, were in fact a climax of a three years old feud, over the land of the school premises. A CCTV camera had captured the details of the shooting. Among the arrested are the Headmistress Mamata Agarwal and one of her security personnel, Shafiq Ahmed alias Pappu Khan. A similar incident had taken place on 15th, September, 2013 when a group of bullies had forced entry into the school premises and had bashed up everybody in sight, including the school caretaker and the alleged shooter Pappu Khan. All these had happened in the absence of Mamata Agarwal.

However, as confirmed by the police records, on the morning of 11th November, a group of intruders had arrived in Short Street in three SUVs, which were parked in front of the green gate of the St. Xavier’s College. The group consisted of 21 individual posing as security guards, including four women and a photographer. The group was being led by one Partha Chatterjee, a lawyer of the Baruipur Court. The footage from the CCTV clearly showed individuals from the group trying to break an entry through the main gates of the premises, when they acquired the key to the gate, supposedly from the other security guards. Eight men encroached into the school premises, while the others kept watch on the outside. As per the statements of a police investigator, “They were led by a lawyer from Baruipur Court, Partha Chatterjee, and had hired a photographer to take pictures of the premises. While standing at the verandah, the eight intruders faced a volley of gunfire from the left corner of the compound. Those at the gate ran away. Those inside ducked in the hail of bullets and ran into the small playroom. They had no weapons with them”. The CCTV footage clearly captures Mamata armed with a carbine and her two security personnel, namely Pappu Khan and Pramod Sau, hunting down the intruders as they approached the playhouse. As per the statement given by another investigating police officer, “We can see one man shooting through a small window into the room where the intruders were huddled. The footage purportedly shows Mamata and Pappu exchanging weapons and taking aim at the intruders by turn”.

Mamata’s version of the incident turns out to be quite different from the police records, “I have been receiving threat calls from unknown numbers to vacate the premises. A few local leaders were aiding them. Around 11PM on Sunday, I received a call saying I might be attacked the next morning. I informed the police but they did not respond. Naturally, I had to take precautions. It was only after they tried to molest me and rape me by tearing my clothes that my security guards interfered”. The police, however, brushed off her claims that, there was an attempt of rape. The police confirmed that the intruders were unarmed and Mamata’s testimony that she retaliating by answering fire, in self defense, only after she was fired upon by the intruders, is inadmissible. The police are checking the phone records to confirm whether Mamata did seek police assistance upon receiving the attack warning.

The police investigations:

The police investigation seems to have opened a can of worms. The police are now certain that, the trespassing was an attempt planned as early as April to seize the school property with the supposed involvement of several so called big shots. The local police (Shakespeare Sarani Police Station) are under the scrutiny now, as it was evident that the violence was brewing just around the corner but the local police were inactive in taking any intervening measures. While the responsibilities of the investigations are being forwarded to the detective department, it has been ascertained by the police that the case of trespassing was indeed a premeditated attempt to forcefully capture the school property, planned right after the dismissals of Calcutta High Court, of Ratan Lal Nahata’s admission that, the property rights as claimed by one Sanjay Surekha, was illegal.

As further confirmed by an investigative official, “We now know that a local leader of the ruling party, with close links to an influential Trinamool Congress Leader, brokered the deal that fetched him Rs 8 crore. However, when Nahata did not vacate the premises and chose to move to court, the broker decided to wait for two years. When Nahata was hospitalized some time ago and Mamata started staking claims as his heir, it was the trigger for the strike”. As confirmed by the sources, a Trinamool leader paid a hefty sum of money to one Arup Debnath, owner of a security agency, to organize the siege.

Further results of the ongoing police investigations:

Arup Debnath, as confirmed by an official source, had been minting money out of a real estate business in the suburbs of the city. Partha Chatterjee, the Baruipur Court lawyer, and the leader of the gang of musclemen on the fateful morning initially admitted that, he was hired by Debnath. However, statements in court were quite contradictory. Partha testified in court that he was actually appointed by the businessman Surekha to take charge of the property at 5A Short Street, because the property belonged to Surekha and the current occupants were illegal. Police has disregarded Partha’s claims. It has also been revealed that, a senior official from the local police station had been taking a rather conspicuous interest in the property issues. The said officer was convicted for being involved in some illicit construction project in Narkeldanga, but all charges against him were eventually dropped. Interestingly joint CP (Crime), Pallab Kanti Ghosh, had announced that the Shakespeare Sarani Police Station will refrain from taking any action in this particular investigation, and they will be further scrutinized on grounds of ‘dereliction of duty’.

While Ghosh confirmed that Mamata had testified to the police that, she did not inform them about any attack, her defense counsel brushed off any such police claims. While sources confirm that, Mamata had filed three ‘harassment for property’ charges with the local police, defense counsel of Mamata, comprising of a battalion of competent lawyers, questioned the silence of the police regarding the trespassers. A further twist in the mystery is of course the rumor that the police had retrieved guns from the school compound and had allegedly stored them ‘in a corner room’. While the police deny any such actions there may be some truth in the rumor because, a number of banned caliber cartridges and 16 daggers were retrieved by the police from the crime scene. As per the statement of an investigating official, “Some of these bullets cannot be bought from normal arms dealers. We are yet to ascertain that the three weapons Mamata has talked about are licensed. We have found no papers so far to back that claim”. Pappu’s testimony was conducive to Mamata’s claims that she was indeed molested. While Nahata is in Apollo Hospital, as of 13th November 2013, Mamata Agarwal and her two accomplices have been sentenced by a City Court to police custody along with ten other alleged trespassers including three women till November 25th.


It is evident that there is a deep political nexus and perhaps involvement of the local police officials too, in this case. But I admire Mamata Agarwal’s courage. Eight musclemen breaking and entering into the compound, disguised as security personnel in the cover of the dark, obviously did not do so to distribute Deewali sweets! Their intentions were definitely malevolent! With the rising cases of rape and murder, anything could have happened. Under the circumstances, I fully support Mamata resorting to firepower as self defense, making a last stand.