Kolkata, Sep 24 (IANS) From Mecheda in East Midnapore district to Pujali in South 24 Parganas, not to speak about the city - the CBI sleuths have spread out far and wide searching for senior IPS officer Rajeev Kumar, but the manhunt has been fruitless so far, with the shrewd former city police commissioner constantly stealing a march over the federal agency detectives.
Over the past 12 days since September 13 when the Calcutta High Court withdrew Kumar's interim protection from arrest - the CBI personnel have raided hotels, a private hospital, guest houses, bungalows, government offices, resorts and almost made daily visits to his official residence - 34, Park Street, but Kumar has been elusive.
Divided into small teams, the 12-member CBI crack team formed to nab Kumar have looked for the state Criminal investigation Department's Additional Director General - wanted for questioning in connection with the multi billion rupee Saradha ponzi scam - even in a far-off private hospital in Pujali of South 24 Parganas district, but to no avail.
On Tuesday, they were sighted entering and coming out of a hotel near Mecheda railway station - 70 kilometers from Pujali. Kumar's ancestral house in Uttar Pradesh's Chandauli district has also not been left out of the search operation.
Adding insult to CBI's injury, Kumar is holding discussions with his legal team and signing the vakalatnama (authorising lawyers to represent him in court) of the cases his lawyers are fighting in court against the CBI. After failing to secure anticipatory bail twice in local courts, Kumar has now moved the Calcutta High Court seeking relief.
Compounding CBI's difficulties, Kumar has gone on leave from September 9-15, with both his official mobile phones and even that of his bodyguard switched off. The CBI bosses have sent multiple letters to the state police top brass seeking information about the phone numbers being used by the 1989 batch IPS officer during his leave period, but were informed by director general Virendra that he was "incommunicado".
Using its own tracking devices, the CBI has tried to locate him by following the signals of a dozen mobile phones, but that has also not been successful, sources said.
A retired IPS officer, who has worked with Kumar, said on condition of anonymity, it could be an uphill task for the CBI to catch the highly cerebral and efficient man, a master in electronic surveillance techniques.
"In fact, he is among the top five police officers in the country in terms of expertise in and knowledge of electronic surveillance. Naturally, the brainy man also is very adept in counter-surveillance techniques, which he has been using to outsmart the CBI,"he said.
Having solved several high profile cases like the Khadim shoe baron abduction and the tracking down of terror don and 2002 American Center Attack mastermind Aftab Ansari in Dubai, Kumar is held in high esteem in police circles not only in Bengal, but also outside the state.
The officer also recalled how, even after a CBI probe had been ordered in the 2015 Ranaghat (in West Bengal's Nadia district) Kumar virtually refused to give up and cracked the case by nabbing five of the culprits, including four Bangladeshi nationals.
"That speaks volumes about his dedication and never-say-die attitude," said the officer.
"The police rank and file hold him in awe for his brilliance and respect him for always backing his personnel," he said.
A senior BJP leader did not rule out the possibility of Kumar getting help from a section of state police personnel.
"We can't say from outside what is happening. Or why the CBI is taking so much time to nab him. But it is natural that the state police personnel, instead of helping the CBI, would rather be on Kumar's side.
"Also, the state's ruling Trinamool Congress won't want the CBI to get hold of Kumar," state BJP president Dilip Ghosh told IANS over phone.
As a responsible and high ranking police officer, Rajeev Kumar should cooperate with the CBI, Ghosh added.
Meanwhile, in north Bengal's Siliguri, responding to reporters' queries about Rajeev Kumar eluding the CBI, state governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, without taking any names, said no one is above law.
"You can never be above law. Law is always above you. I don't want to take anybody's name. Law has shown its strength. It is the law which had upset election of a prime minister, got us the Judicial accoutability bill.
"The higher the position one holds, more should he always bow before the law. And if anyone has pretension that he and she is above law, events have told us no one is. You have seen"," he told reporters.
Kumar had headed the special investigation team formed by the state's Mamata Banerjee government in 2013 to probe the Saradha scam. But the case was handed over to the Supreme Court a year later to the CBI.
The federal agency has accused Kumar of tampering with evidence in the case and withholding vital documents.
(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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