Senior BJD leader and Odisha’s Health and Family Welfare minister Naba Kisore Das died in hospital Sunday evening, hours after he was shot at from point-blank range by a police officer at Brajrajnagar in Jharsuguda district.
According to police sources, assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Gopal Das opened fire at Naba Das at Gandhi Chowk near Brajrajnagar town around 12.15 pm, minutes before the minister was to attend a programme. The accused, who was posted at the Gandhi Chowk police outpost, carried out the killing in the presence of police personnel and the minister’s supporters.
He was immediately taken into custody. Briefing media on the matter, Gupteswar Bhoi, sub-divisional police officer at Brajrajnagar, said the motive for the killing remains unclear and is being investigated.
Crime Branch ADG Arun Bothra, who is in Jharsuguda to supervise the investigation, said the accused has been arrested. A seven-member Special Investigation Team of the Crime Branch, comprising cyber and ballistic experts, among others, has been set up to investigate the case.
Videos of the incident show ASI Das approaching Naba Das’s vehicle and, as the minister steps out, the accused opens fire with his service revolver. As the minister slumps over, his supporters help him back into the vehicle.
He was rushed to the Jharsuguda district headquarters hospital and later airlifted to Apollo Hospital in Bhubaneswar.
A statement issued by Apollo Hospital said the minister was admitted with “gunshot wounds to the left chest”.
“…a single bullet had entered and exited the body, injuring the heart and left lung and causing massive internal bleeding and injury. The injuries were repaired, and steps were taken to improve the pumping of the heart. He was given urgent ICU care. But despite the best efforts, he could not be revived and succumbed to his injuries,” read a statement issued by the hospital.
Deepak Kumar, IG, North Range, stated that the accused fired two rounds targeting the minister while he fired another two rounds at the police personnel who tried to overpower him. Another person was injured in the incident and has been admitted to a hospital in Jharsuguda.
The wife of the accused told the media in Berhampur that her husband was a “psychiatric patient” and was “under medication for the past seven to eight years”. She said her husband was promoted to ASI rank and transferred to Jharsuguda district in 2012.
Senior police officers, however, refused to comment on the ASI’s mental health and said the matter was under investigation.
Tension prevailed in Jharsuguda as Naba Das’s supporters staged a dharna over the incident. A three-time MLA from Jharsuguda, Das had switched to the BJD from Congress in January 2019, months before the General and Assembly elections. He is one of the richest ministers in the Naveen Patnaik Cabinet, having declared assets of Rs 34 crore, including those in the name of his spouse.
Late Sunday night, after the post-mortem procedure was conducted at Bhubaneswar’s Capital Hospital, Das’s body was brought to the Assembly building, where MLAs paid their respects.
Later on Monday, the last rites will be conducted at Jharsuguda.