A 22-year-old man from Howrah in West Bengal, who was beaten mercilessly when he protested against the harassment of some women, died in a hospital in Kolkata on Monday.
Arup Bhandari, a resident of Salkia in Howrah district, fell into a coma after he was assaulted on January 28. He had been on a ventilator at the private hospital for the past five days.
Authorities at the hospital said Bhandari died of brain hemorrhage or internal bleeding in the brain. The body was sent for an autopsy. An FIR lodged at the police station just hours before his death had alleged police had failed to act in the matter.
Bhandari’s family pointed fingers at the police for failing to make a single arrest in the past five days. Opposition party leaders and rights activists joined in the chorus by highlighting what they described as the “deteriorating” law and order situation in West Bengal.
“We have started a murder case against the accused,” said Nishat Pervez, the DC (headquarters) with Howrah City Police.
When Bhandari was going with his friends to immerse an idol of Goddess Saraswati at 9.30 pm on Wednesday, a group of youngsters, who were allegedly inebriated, started teasing some women. Bhandari protesting and the youngsters left the spot.
They returned soon after, armed with bamboos and rods, and singled out Bhandari and started beating him. Bhandari was left in a pool of blood.
He was first taken to a local hospital and then shifted to a hospital in Kolkata when his condition deteriorated. Bhandari’s father went to lodge a complaint at Golabari police station but was reportedly turned away. Local residents blocked the road on Thursday, demanding the arrest of the culprits.
On Sunday, social worker Biplab Kumar Choudhury lodged an FIR at Golabari police station that alleged police had failed to act.
Bhandari’s brother Amar told the media: “My brother was always vocal against any wrong work in the locality and he has been killed because of his protest against the eve teasers. We want to see the culprits behind bars so that no one dares to repeat such an incident in future.”
Rinku Das, the sister of Rajib Das, who was killed when he tried to protect his sibling from being molested at Barasat in 2011, said, “I want to express my solidarity with the family through you and I like to say that I am with the victim’s family.”
“I’m shaken. The chief minister and also the police minister, it seems, are trying to guard miscreants, which is allowing them to have a free run in the state,” said Ambikesh Mahapatra, a professor of Jadavpur University who was arrested for circulating cartoons on the chief minister.
Furious residents of Salkia expressed their anger after Bhandari’s death. Additional policemen were posted in the area. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee sent Arup Roy, the agricultural marketing minister, to Bhandari’s house.
There were protests in several other areas. “Howrah, South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas, Birbhum, everywhere the situation is the same. It seems that the police is actually working on behalf of criminals. The chief minister is also the home minister of the state,” said state BJP president Rahul Sinha.
Surjya Kant Mishra, leader of opposition in the state assembly and a CPI-M legislator, said, “Chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her state government are directly responsible for what happened in Howrah.”