A raging controversy has erupted after a speeding sports utility vehicle (Audi Q7) hit an Indian Air Force (IAF) officer, Corporal Abhimanyu Gaur, taking part in a Republic Day practice parade at Red Road here, killing him on Wednesday. Though Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee went to the Command Hospital where Gaur succumbed to his injuries and ordered an immediate probe, the incident has assumed political colours with Assembly elections in the state round the corner, after it emerged that the Audi was registered in the name of Sambia Sohrab, who happens to be the younger son of an influential Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mohammad Sohrab, a former Rashtriya Janata Dal legislator. There were protests against the TMC alleging a cover-up. However, on Saturday, the Trinamool Congress distanced the party from Mohammad Sohrab, calling him a “minor political activist”.
The Kolkata police, which had issued a look-out notice against Mohammad Sohrab and his two sons in connection with the hit-and-run case, on Saturday claimed it was the younger son Sambia who was behind the wheels. While the police had initially suspected Mohammad Sohrab’s elder son Ambia Sohrab to be driving the car, Special Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) Debasish Boral said it was the younger son Sambia who was driving the car. “It is more or less confirmed, Sambia was driving the car,” Boral said, adding that police raided 10 places across the city in search of the absconding accused.
However, since the day of the incident, the entire Shorab family is “missing”. The Kolkata police maintains that they have gathered crucial evidence and is hunting for the others onboard the Audi and has formed a 22-member SIT headed by a deputy commissioner level officer from the Detective Department to probe the matter. However, there has been no major breakthrough in the case. In a statement, the IAF has rubbished the “accident theory” put forward by Kolkata police. Sources say that “Mohammad Shahnawaz Khan @Sunny” and Jonny were accompanying Sambia Sohrab. Wing Commander S.S. Birdi, spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence, told The Sunday Guardian that according to accounts of eyewitnesses and their primary internal probe, there was one person driving the car who fled the spot, leaving the SUV behind. At 6.30 am on Wednesday, while the Republic Day Parade rehearsal was taking place at Red Road, a speeding car breached the multi-tier security cordon, mowing down Corporal Abhimanyu Gaur, who was a drill instructor in the parade rehearsal. Other defence personnel, who were also eyewitnesses to the incident, rushed to rescue Gaur as he lay unconscious on the other side of the road. Immediately, Gaur was rushed to Command Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
The Sunday Guardian spoke to Md Khalid Khan, kin of Md Shahnawaz Khan (co-accused as claimed by police). He said that since the incident, he spoke once with Shahnawaz and the latter claimed that Sambia Sohrab was driving the Audi and they were following him on a Skoda. Khalid also claimed that his brother shared how Sambia breached the security cordon and headed towards the restricted area, but Shahnawaz and his other friend chose to stay back. However, since then his brother is “untraceable” and a missing diary has also been registered by the family.
Contradictions in accounts and the lack of promptness have made the role of the police come under the scanner. The Opposition has claimed that due to Sambia Sohrab’s affiliation with the Trinmool Congress, police is attempting a cover up. Efforts are being made to frame others as accused, thus shielding Sambia Sohrab, the Opposition has claimed. BJP leader Roopa Ganguly too hit out at the Trinamool Congress for shielding the guilty.
After over 100 hours of the incident, a senior police officer claimed that, finally, after corroborating all the evidence, they have identified Sambia as the person behind the wheels.