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Mamata Banerjee begins 'Save the Constitution' dharna after CBI-Kolkata Police face off

Mamata Banerjee on her dharna Sunday night. Photograph:( ANI )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Feb 03, 2019, 09.52 PM (IST)

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee began a "Save the Constitution" dharna at Kolkata's Metro Channel on Sunday night after the CBI and Kolkata Police had faced off earlier. 

A CBI team had shown up at Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar's home on Sunday evening. The CBI has accused Kumar of hindering investigations into the Saradha and Rose Valley ponzi schemes. 

The TMC's Derek O'Brien said 40 officials of the CBI had shown up, and that they did not "even have a search warrant".  

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Mamata said the CBI's turning up announced amounted to the "destruction of the federal structure". 

"I am going to stage a dharna to save the federal structure. From today I'm going to sit near the Metro Channel. Tomorrow proceedings in state assembly will take place where I will hold a meeting. This dharna means satyagraha," she said. 

Kolkata police chief Rajeev Kumar sat with Mamata on her protest. 

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"... constitution is in danger, institutions are in danger and the country is in danger. Mamata has fought many battles before and another one starts tonight at 9 pm," O'Brien said. 

He added that the "TMC has spoken to all like-minded parties and given them an update on what happened today in Kolkata. It has happened to Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Congress, TDP, AAP and all the parties." 

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The BJP meanwhile said Mamata was behaving "like a dictator... to protect the corrupt in her state".  

"Incident taking place in Kolkata are unfortunate," said BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao. "Mamata Banerjee wants to protect the corrupt in her state, like a dictator. She is obstructing investigation of CBI which was there as per SC order. She is shredding apart the constitution. We condemn this."

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Rao added that "CBI is working as per directions of SC, no state government has the power to obstruct or detain them. It's unconstitutional and undemocratic... We hope SC gives a direction to WB government, keeping this incident in view otherwise no agency will be able to work in this country." 

The events of Sunday evening could very quickly snowball into a constitutional crisis. 

Five men of the CBI team were detained, but later released. 

And even as the CBI team arrived on Kumar's doorstep, personnel of the Kolkata Police stationed themselves outside the regional CBI office. 

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The Centre then sent CRPF units to the CBI office. 

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Interim CBI Director M Nageshwar Rao meanwhile told ANI on Sunday evening that "we are investigating these chit fund cases as per the directions of the SC. An SIT has been constituted by the WB government prior to SC's direction under the chairmanship of Rajeev Kumar, who is currently the Kolkata police commissioner." 

He added that "they have taken charge of all the evidence, seized all the documents. They have not been cooperating with us in handing over all the documents and a lot of evidence has been destroyed or caused to disappear. There is evidence against him (Rajeev Kumar), he has been instrumental in causing destruction of this evidence and obstructing justice." 

By about 10.30 pm Sunday night, reports began to filter in of TMC workers staging protests in the state.  

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The CBI has sought an appointment with West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi to discuss the issue. 

And Nageshwar Rao said the CBI would approach the Supreme Court on Monday, since the West Bengal Police "is not cooperating".

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A number of opposition leaders meanwhile, including Rahul Gandhi, Omar Abdullah, Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu, Mayawati, Sharad Pawar, and Arvind Kejriwal, spoke to Mamata Banerjee over the phone and expressed their solidarity.
 

Story highlights

The CBI had on Sunday evening shown up at the Kolkata Police chief's home, accusing him of hindering the investigations into the Saradha and Rose Valley ponzi schemes. Mamata said their turning up unannounced amounted to the 'destruction of the federal structure'.