The events surrounding the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Rajeev Kumar, the former Police Commissioner of Kolkata are no less dramatic than mystery of “The Purloined Letter”, that famous creation by Edgar Allan Poe. Only, in this case it will be too much to think that someone would have “stolen” the man who, in fact, is the head of the Criminal Investigation Department of the West Bengal Police.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), ever since the Kolkata High Court lifted the bar on arresting Mr. Kumar in connection with the Saradha Chit Fund Case, seems to have gone on overdrive to nab the guy. That, at least , is what one gathers from the TV and print media coverage. In an old fashioned way it could be said that the central detective agency is quite literally leaving ‘no stone unturned’ to catch, if I may say so, one of its own – an old master in the game of cops and robbers.

However, if the reports are to be believed – supported by visuals – the CBI’s attempts at finding Kumar look more like the jumping around of the proverbial headless chicken than a determined effort to get at a fugitive as expected of a professional investigation agency. They are looking for Kumar in five-star hotels and resorts, at the IPS officers’ Mess, in the ADG (CID)’s office and “various other” places.

It is understood that the CBI believes that, much like the stolen letter in Poe’s story, which lay inoccously on a cheap card rack visible to all, while the police looked for it in some secret hiding place,  Rajeev Kumar is somewhere in Kolkata itself – so near yet so far! The operational details obviously would be secret, but it is not understood why the CBI is cocksure that their ‘target’ is right there in the metropolis, when an escape into the vast hinterland of India or to one of the neghbouring countries is quite easy to execute.

The media says that a Control Room has been set up in the CBI office and that a dozen seasoned sleuths have been specially flown into Kolkata to trace Kumar. This is too much, really. A dozen ‘Toms’, in company of an equally strong posse of TV crew looking for an elusive ‘Jerry’ through the mews and alleys of Kolkata is an item that surely is pushing up the TRPs of the channels, regardless of the distractions caused by a few wayward students at the Jadavpur University. But it hardly covers the agency in glory.

The skeptic, however, has strong doubts about the credibility of the CBI story as propagated through the huffing and puffing TV journalists chasing the agency officials on the prowl. Forget about the CBI, even the much maligned Kolkata Police is yet to become so incompetent as to fail to trace one of the senior-most officers of the State Police who, because of the nature of his responsibilities and his rank, is provided with 24-hour proximate official security.

In any case, the CBI’s record in finding missing persons where some form of politics is involved is not enviable. The case of the JNU student, Najeeb Ahmed, who went missing from the university’s hostel almost three years ago is one in point. First the Delhi Police and then the CBI investigated the matter, but the youth remains untraced till date.

In the case of Rajeev Kumar, the CBI says that the bosses of Kumar, namely the Director General of Police and the Home Secretary of West Bengal have asserted that while Kumar is officially on leave, his leave address and contact phone number are unknown to them. This is laughable for no Government servant of any rank can proceed on leave without a leave address and, these days, a mobile phone number. And when as senior an officer as Kumar goes on leave, he cannot be totally incommunicado for the simple reason that he could be called back to duty on grounds of public exigency. Did the CBI ask the DGP and the Home Secretary as to how they would contact Kumar in such an eventuality?

The web that the CBI has spun would have been somewhat credible had it lasted for a couple of days only. It, however, has lost its sheen as the agency continues to toss the same old fodder to the people at large for far too long now. If the CBI has such contempt for the intelligence of the common man then it may have to rue it before long.

Rajeev Kumar is not just a senior police officer. He is perhaps the most important missing link in the Saradha scam that, if fitted properly, would help the CBI to hook the sharks who gobbled up all the meat that Sudipta Sen’s lucrative business could supply, and who therefore could go to any length to stop the top cop from spilling the beans before the CBI and, eventually, in a court of law.

Cozy relationship based on quid pro quo between politicians and police officers is nothing new; but when the Chief Minister of a State sat down in protest against the first attempt by the CBI to interrogate Rajeev Kumar, the depth of the relationship surprised even the most hardened observer.

This time too, as the CBI keeps people glued to their TVs following an hour by hour, if not minute by minute commentary on its hard work to find Kumar, the real drama is likely unfolding elsewhere. Clearly, the CBI and Rajeev Kumar have time till that drama reaches its climax in some kind of respite for the sharks. Till then the CBI will turn all the stones, except the one under which the missing footprint is lying.

But what baffles the lay man is why Kumar, a most brilliant IPS officer, allowed himself to get so badly entangled with the misdeeds of the politicians that he is finding it near impossible to extricate himself from the muck. Was it simply avarice, or was it love for power and proximity to those in power? Only a thorough and impartial investigation – a tall order perhaps – can answer these questions. We hope and wait for that.