Darjeeling police is on the hunt for an absconding child development project official in whose resident a minor girl had committed suicide. On April 5, the girl was found hanging in the house of child development project officer (CDPO) Tshering Doma Bhutia in Dareeling. Phu Diki Sherpa, 14, had been residing with Bhutia since 2002.
The lack of legal documents (adoption or foster care) in the possession of Bhutia prompted child welfare committee (CWC) to lodge a complaint against the CDPO at the Darjeeling Sadar Police Station.
“Initially it seemed like a case of unnatural death. Even the post mortem report said the death is due to hanging which is suicidal in nature. However with the FIR from the CWC we have started investigating. There were allegations of regular beatings. Witnesses also came up to testify. The CDPO has been charged under section 306 IPC (Abetment of suicide.) She is absconding. Raids are on. We hope to arrest her soon,” said Purnima Sherpa, deputy superintendent of Police, Darjeeling.
The CWC has also lodged a complaint with the social welfare department, where Bhutia works. P Sherpa, district project officer said, “We have received a complaint from the CWC. We will enquire into the matter and submit a report to the district magistrate. He will in turn forward it to the concerned authorities. As per the instructions from the departmental head we will initiate necessary action.”
While reporting the death of Phu Diki at the Darjeeling Sadar Police Station, Prithvi Raj Pradhan, husband of the CDPO had said that the child did not want to go to school on April 5.
He had found her hanging in the bathroom.
Police while investigating learnt that on that day R400 had been missing from Pradhan’s drawer which had been later recovered from Sherpa’s bag. Pradhan had scolded Sherpa.
Manju Tamang of the CWC said, “We had got information of the death of this minor. On investigating we found many loose ends. Her classmates claimed that she used to remain unhappy and had confided in them that she had to do all the household chores including cooking from a tender age. She used to be beaten up frequently by the CDPO. Though a good student she hardly could take out time for studies”
Anuja Ghaley of the CWC, alleged that persons known to the family had com-plained that they had noticed scars, scratches on Sherpa’s face and body on numerous occasions.
“On investigation we further found that this girl had been brought to Darjeeling by the CDPO from the ICDS centre at Dilpa in Lhodhama under the Bijanbari block when she was posted in Bijanbari. The CDPO had no legal documents. Sherpa along with another kid who used to stay in the Bhutia household had run away a few years ago but were nabbed by the police and handed back to the family.
“The police had then asked the Bhutia family to return the two kids to their respective families. Both the kids were sent back but the deceased had returned back,” added Ghaley.
The father of the deceased Phurba Tshering Sherpa, was in the Bhutia household along with other relatives to attend the funeral.
The father who is a small time carpenter in the remote village of Dilpa stated that he had 5 daughters.
He claimed that Bhutia had approached him in 2002 seeking custody of the child saying that she would bring up the child.
“As we are very poor I agreed.” He further alleged that he was hardly allowed to keep contact with his daughter except when she had been sent back after she tried to escape a few years ago. After a year Bhutia wanted to see the child and I brought Phu Diki back.” added the father.