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PAKUR MURDER CASE

Calcutta… Howrah Railway Station of 1930s. A train waited on the platform puffing out thick clouds of smoke all set to chug-chug away. People milled about on platforms... passengers in a hurry…porters carrying luggage…laughter… Sobs…people talking adding to the din of the atmosphere... Amarendra, the Pakur prince was walking on the platform waiting to take the train to the seat of zamindari, Pakur. Accompanying him were Kamalprasad, Ashok Prakash Mitra, his relatives, his sisters Banabala, and Anima, and his aunt Rani Suryabati.The small crowd had come to see the Prince and walking behind at some distance was the eldest brother Binayendra who was busy ogling women of all ages, sizes and shapes on the platform.

Binayendra and Amarendra were sons of the Raja of Pakur by different wives. After the demise of the Raja in 1929 both were the heirs to the estate of the Raja, then the richest zamindar in Bengal during that era. Amarendra stopped suddenly and burst out screaming loudly, "Oh someone has pricked me with a needle!" The accompanying relations surrounded him making enquiries and Bina as he was affectionately called came running. Amarendra rolled up his silk shirtsleeve and showed him the pinprick wound on his arm, which was bleeding. The sisters were frightened and requested Amar not to travel by train and return home for immediate medical attention. Bina admonished is relations not to make a sissy of his brother and wiping away the drops of blood he rubbed the wound many times. He remarked that the brothers were of royal lineage and came from a family of great warriors who never took a step in retreat. Amarendra laughed happily and stepped into the first class compartment accompanied by the sisters and aunt and then the train pulled out. Bina and relatives waited for sometime waving until the train disappeared from sight.

The sisters and aunt were rather surprised that Bina had come to the station to see off his brother. The two were not on the best of terms having differences over the rights of succession to the estate. After the demise of the Pakur raja, Bina took control as guardian and was spending money freely on wine, women and song, not necessarily in that order. Not surprisingly the money came out of the estate coffers and Bina was not in a position to send to send Amar's monthly allowance to Patna where he was pursuing his studies. Amar protested and began to question the expenditure much to the discomfort of Bina. Besides there was another sore point. Rani Suryabati was a wealthy lady and the widow of a raja with no issues. Her nephews were her heirs and she loved Amar much more than Bina.

Dissatisfied with his brother's conduct Amar pressed his claim to the estate and suggested that a partition should be done. Bina pooh- poohed the idea and that as brothers hailing from a royal family they should never think of partition.

While Bina drove back seeking comfort in the arms of his inamorata, the train was puff puffing away to Pakur and seated inside the luxurious coupe Amar was rather disturbed more than somewhat. The incident at the Howrah station began to worry him and he leaned back with his eyes shut ignoring the lovely landscape of rural Bengal which he had always enjoyed during his earlier travels. Was the pinprick an accident? Or was it something more sinister?

Banabala told her brother that before the incident she noticed a man bumping into him on the platform rather deliberately she thought. She described the person in considerable detail. He was dark, wore homespun clothes and was extremely dirty. Amar sat up. The person his sister had described was seen by him a few days earlier near a theatre in Calcutta where he had gone with his friends to attend a show. A ticket had been bought for Bina too but he did not come in, hanging around the foyer looking around for quite sometime as if he was expecting somebody. The dark dirty man was hanging around the> theatre and stared at him after the show was over and Amar and his friends got into the family Rolls Royce and drove away. If the person described by his sister was the same fellow, Amar felt that something fishy was possibly going on! What? Anyway he chose to forget all about it and settled down to have his siesta.

Amar and his party reached Pakur safely and the next day he received a letter from his friend Kamalprasad in Calcutta. The friend wrote that that the Howrah platform incident should be taken seriously and investigated in depth. He also expressed his anxiety and desire that Amar should undergo a medical checkup in Calcutta. The following morning Amar and his relatives returned to Calcutta and sent for the family doctor Nalini Ranjan Sengupta, a well known name then in that city.

Dr Sen Gupta examined Amar thoroughly and gave his opinion that a surgical needle had been obviously used to prick the young zamindar and suggested a Blood Test at once. Dr Santosh Kumar Gupta was called to conduct the Blood Test in the Pakur Palace Guesthouse in Calcutta.

Meanwhile Amar developed high fever which would not respond to any treatment and the temperature rose high and higher in spite of the best treatment available at the time in the provincial capital and poor Amarendra passed away in December 4,1933. The young zamindar was still in his teens.

The family and Pakur citizens and friends in Calcutta were understandably shocked and Bina wept uncontrollably and performed the traditional funeral rites and rituals of his dear departed brother.

However Dr Santosh Kumar Gupta was intrigued by the blood tests. The dedicated professional conducted "Blood Culture" and injected it into a couple of rats. Much to his shock the rats died within a few hours. The conclusion was obvious and inescapable. Plague!

Dr Buta had no doubt that Amarendra’s death was the consequence of the injection of the deadly plague bacilli. No doubt about it! He wondered how Amar, a wealthy man of status had fallen a victim to plague. And then he heard about the Howrah Railway Station incident. It was now clear to the doctors and the family that Amar had been deliberately murdered by the injection of the deadly bacilli. It seemed impossible and incredible too but it was the shocking searing truth....

There have been murders by many methods in many parts of the world but never in the history of Crime and Murder was a person eliminated by such a monstrous method. Who could have done that? And how?

It became evident to the Pakur zamindari family women that the dark dirty man was responsible for the dark foul deed. It was also clear that he was a henchman of somebody hired to carry out the nefarious and most sinful act. Who was that somebody?

The Pakur family adviser and lawyer Kalidas Gupta came to Calcutta and | and met Balikabala, the attractive mistress of Bina. She frankly told the senior lawyer that she had been friendly with Bina for well over a year and her house was the venue of her lover’s frequent meetings with a man. Who was he? Dr. Taranath! The family lawyer sat up feeling distinctly uneasy. Left with no option he went to the Calcutta Police and filed a criminal complaint which was immediately taken up for investigation by a senior Sub- Inspector. The facts that the he unearthed were quite interesting. During the previous Durga Puja Festival Amarendra stayed at his aunt’s palace in Deogarh. Bina called on him and accompanying him was a man, a compounder ! During the visit Bina tweaked his brother’s nose playfully and in the process he rubbed something greasy over the nose! The same night Bina and the compounder left for Calcutta.During the night Amar fell seriously ill and the local doctor diagnosed it as ‘ tetanus fever.’ At once the aunt sent a telegram to the Pakur Palace seeking medical help and the doctor sent by Bina was Taranath! The new doctor tried to give Amar heavy doses of morphia. But the local doctor put his foot down in time. Bina brought several doctors in succession who suggested different kinds of treatment and all of them were unsuited for the fever. All these facts revealed the startling fact Bina was trying hard to eliminate Amar for ever…!

So Bina was arrested while he was on his way to Bombay along with Taranath. It came to light that Bina had visited Bombay often ostensibly to meet movie actresses in whom he was interested for a lark in the dark! But investigation showed that he had contacted a man in Bombay who had instructions to do anything he needed! The police quickly located the man Ratan and his testimony was equally startling…

Taranath had sent a telegram to the Haufkein Institute in Bombay inquiring whether it would be possible for the famed medical research centre to supply plague bacilli. He signed a telegram adding some medical degree made up out of his imagination! However the Institute rejected his request stating that individuals would not be given such dangerous bacilli whatever might be the need and cause. However Taranath did not give up his attempts and approached another professional colleague of his who was doing research in Tropical Diseases. Currying his favour using his guile, wiles and smiles he succeeded in working as his ‘research assistant’ and worked with him for a few months. That was not all. He managed to get a certificate from his employer that he was doing special research in plague and on the verge of discovering a medicine to eradicate the scourge for ever. Armed with that certificate Taranath went to Bombay and met the Institute authorities and wherever possible he introduce himself as the Calcutta- based researcher and not a mere employee of the person! Besides he used a fictitious name and address at the Bombay hotel.

However the Institute officers refused to entertain his request in spite of the certificate about which they had their own doubts. Months later Bina came to Bombay and met two researchers at the Institute and during a chat with them he came to know that there was another similar institute in Bombay, Arthur Road Infectious Diseases Hospital which had a research wing too. Here he met with better welcome and he was introduced to Dr. Mehta, a specialist in Tropical Diseases especially plague. Bina told him the Dr. Taranath was too busy in Calcutta to come in person and do his research in Bombay and so he requested the Arthur Road Institute officials to get a small vial of plague bacilli for research in Calcutta. Much to his joy a vial was supplied without any more ado !

Dr. Taranath arrived in Bombay next day and soon the plague bacilli vial was travelling on its way to Calcutta in the distinguished company of Bina and Taranath !

During his stay in Bombay Bina was not idle. He called on several insurance company officers and tried to take out a life insurance policy in Amarendra's name for Rs. 51,000 rupees, which was a big fortune in the 1930s. However the insurance companies asked too many inconvenient questions and he gave it all up as useless.

Soon the investigation was completed and the charge-sheet was filed in Calcutta against Bina, Taranath and two others for the murder of Amarendra. Known as ‘The Pakur Murder Case’ the criminal trial in Calcutta created great sensation not only in the provincial capital but also the rest of country. Bina denied the charges and stated that he loved his brother too dearly to even given to think of killing him.Taranath was subjected to grilling cross-examination and it was proved amply that he was hardly friendly with Truth in which he did not believe!

Evidence was let in by the Prosecution which was too strong for the accused too rebut and Bina and Taranath were awarded Death Sentence. The two filed an appeal before the Calcutta High Court and it came up for hearing in 1936 before Their Lordships Lord-Williams and Naseemuni. The appeal also created sensation around the nation and bitter legal battle was fought by the eminent counsel on both sides. The hearing went on for over ten days and Mr. Justice Lord- Williams reduced the sentence to life imprisonment for the reason that the dark dirty man on the railway platform was never traced by the police and his evidence was not available to the court. In his judgement Justice Lord- Williams remarked, "This case is probably the> most unique in the annals of crime. "

Bina refused to surrender to the police and in a movie style battle between him and the police went on at the Pakur Fort for a number of days and when the Army which was summoned entered the Fort Bina was already dead by his own hand.

Nobody ever knew who the dark dirty man was and most likely he continued to breathe the fresh air of Calcutta for many years while Bina and Taranath fought desperate battles to save their skins and lives with not much of success...

One wonders how life unfolded for Taranath after he had come out of prison …..

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