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India Wanting

Fourteen-year-old Arka Das, a resident of Laldighipara, a village in West Bengal, was never like this. Three years back, he was a boy, his parents say, who would restrict himself to his books. And play. Surojit Ghosh Hazra reports.

india Updated: Aug 23, 2008 22:55 IST
Surojit Ghosh Hazra

Fourteen-year-old Arka Das, a resident of Laldighipara, a village in West Bengal, was never like this. Three years back, he was a boy, his parents say, who would restrict himself to his books. And play.

On August 17, the youngest son of Anil Das, a Group-D staff of Suri Vidyasagar College, murdered his neighbour, ten-year-old Sheuli Dalui, the sister of a friend, for an iPod. Arka’s elder brother, Tapas, who would share his room with him, says, “My brother used to be an obedient boy. But he changed over the last three years.”

Last year, Arka, a Class 8 student of Chandragati High School, failed to clear the final examinations. “He had become absent-minded. This year, his attendance at school was irregular,” says teacher-in-charge, Tanmoy Ghosh.

Arka’s classmates say he would bunk classes and visit cyber cafés on the sly. Once, when a cyber café owner refused him the use of a computer during school hours, he devised a plan to carry an extra shirt and pant inside his schoolbag so that he could change and visit the cyber café. Arka is cool and intelligent — that’s the general impression.

A senior police officer at the Suri police station says he was surprised at the boy’s composure. “He had taken all the necessary steps to carry out and erase traces of his involvement like any other professional criminal,” he says. “After pushing Sheuli from almost a height of 25 feet, he came down the building, took the iPod and strangled her. To make sure she was dead, he smashed her head with a stone and then returned home. Then he took a bath after washing his clothes to remove blood stains from his clothes. When his mother asked him about the sudden wash, he told her it was to remove splashes of mud.”

Arka is unrepentant, the officer informs. “He did not have a good reputation in this locality...no parent would allow their child to be friendly with Arka,” says Swagata Banerjee, a neighbour and a housewife.

The boy had stolen two mobile phones earlier which were later given back to the owners by his father Anil Das, neighbours say.

His parents of late had lost all hope and were unable to wean him away from his gadget obsession. If he wanted an electronic gadget, he had to have it. “We knew that one day he might do something grievously wrong. So when people came to my house to ask my son about Sheuli, I handed him over to them,” Arka’s father, says.

“We have tried our best to correct him. We punished him, we consulted doctors… just to make him a good human being. But we failed,” says Arka’s mother Krishna tearfully. “We had also consulted a psychiatrist few months ago. But it didn’t help,” said Tapas. Sheuli’s family has demanded capital punishment for Arka. His story isn’t over yet.