Bipul Kumar had a pistol pointed to his head and had no idea why. “The boy looked intoxicated, weak. I am a sportsman, I could have finished him off with a slap. I assumed it was a mugging,” he says.
Bipul tried snatching the pistol. But the youngster opened fire. “The bullet got lodged in the seat of the car,” he says, instinctively rubbing together the tips of the fingers in his left hand, which the bullet grazed. Bipul was shot twice more that evening of November 23 last year, in his abdomen and lower back.
Sitting at Tata Group’s Community Centre in Jamshedpur’s Kasidih, the 40-year-old recalls giving the bike-riding attackers a chase in his car before losing them in the traffic, and then driving himself to the Tata Main Hospital, where he would stay in the CCU for seven days.
On July 27, over eight months later, Bipul’s alleged attackers were finally arrested. When he was brought in to identify the gang, the area in-charge of Tata’s Urban Services Department asked the two of them he recognised the question he had been waiting to ask: “Bhai, why did you try to kill me?”
After Bipul was shot, at least 10 more people had been waylaid in Jamshedpur and similarly shot. Five of them had died in what appeared to be random attacks. Even in this town where a soaring crime rate co-exists with model development propelled by the Tatas, the attacks stood out.
When police tried to put together the answers, they were surprised at what they found — two gangs, one of them led by a constable, operating separately; one of them formed on caste lines; targeting people they “didn’t like”, in attacks that weren’t planned; to gain notoriety, hoping to use it for extortion.
Bipul was attacked as he came out of Jamshedpur’s United Club. The attacker — later identified as Manish Pandey — walked up to him to ask for directions to the Tata Main Hospital (TMH). He indicated it was behind him, without lowering the window glass. Manish appeared to walk away, but then returned. “This time I lowered the window. He put a gun to my head and said, ‘I asked you for directions to TMH, didn’t I?’,” says Bipul.
He would later recall seeing an individual sitting on a black Pulsar motorcycle hanging around at the back. This man has now been identified as constable Anjan Pandey.
When Bipul asked them last month why they had shot him, Anjan claimed that the former’s car had crashed into his bike a few days earlier near Tata Tinplate factory and that the mob that had gathered had supported the Tata official. “Apparently Anjan’s wife was with him and he felt humiliated,” says Bipul.
Bipul told them that they were mistaken as he rarely went to Tinplate. At this, Bipul recalls, Manish turned on Anjan and shouted: “It is this Anjan who made me do all continued…
The shop had stored over 20 drums of kerosene that fuelled the blaze and it quickly spread through the entire building.