Kolkata police detain CBI officials, triggering showdown between Modi and Mamata

Published: February 04, 2019 12:21:21 | Updated: February 05, 2019 11:39:38

Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of the state of West Bengal, speaks during "United India" rally attended by the leaders of India's main opposition parties ahead of the general election, in Kolkata, India, Jan 19, 2019. Reuters/Files

The detention of eight Central Bureau of Investigation officials by Kolkata police has triggered a tense showdown between the government of Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, reports The Times of India.

Eight CBI officials had come to question Kolkata police chief Rajeev Kumar in connection with two Ponzi schemes.

Several hundred Kolkata police personnel surrounded the CBI’s offices in the city and forcibly took the officials to a nearby police station.

Mamata Banerjee went to the police commissioner’s residence and accused the central government of attempting a ‘constitutional coup in Bengal’.

“They came to the commissioner of police’s home without any court order or warrant. The matter is sub judice in the Kolkata High Court and there is a stay order. This is blatantly wrong and an infringement on our federal structure,” she said.

"There is total constitutional breakdown. It is my job to protect my officers," the chief minister said on Sunday evening. "They [the BJP] cannot fight is politically. That's why they are resorting to all this."

Banerjee then launched a sit-in protest, known as a dharna, in central Kolkata accompanied by police chief Rajeev Kumar. The protest entered its second day on Tuesday.

"This is a Satyagraha and I'll continue till the country is saved," Banerjee said, citing the form of protest developed by Mahatma Gandhi.

Kolkata police chief Rajeev Kumar had led the investigation into the Saradha and Rose Valley scams of 2013, but was summoned for questioning several times in the past two years after documents relating to the cases went missing. Several reports from Indian media outlets in recent days have suggested the police official could be arrested for evading questioning.

Several leaders of the Indian opposition have voiced their support for Banerjee over the incident, including Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Tejashwi Yadav.

The CBI has announced that it will move the Supreme Court to initiate a contempt of court proceeding against Rajeev Kumar for obstructing an investigation into chit fund scams.

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