Bengal custodial death sparks row
A political controversy has erupted in West Bengal’s Birbhum district after the mysterious death on Thursday night of a 15-year old boy arrested for the alleged theft of a mobile phone.
While the police claim it was suicide; the boy’s family had insisted in the morning that he was beaten to death. However, later in the day the mother said that it would be futile to raise allegations as they have lost their son. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) says he was killed because his parents are BJP workers.
On Friday morning, irate villagers clashed with the police and blocked National Highway 114 by burning tyres; they hurled bricks at the police, who resorted to a lathi charge to disperse the crowd.
The BJP has called a 12-hour-bandh in Mallarpur on Saturday. “A 15-year-old boy died inside the police station. He was arrested following all norms and brought to the police station on Thursday. At night he went to the toilet and hanged himself. We have ordered a magisterial probe and a post-mortem by a three-member medical panel following guidelines laid down by the National Human Rights Commission,” said Shyam Singh, superintendent of police, Birbhum district.
The victim’s parents and villagers alleged that the boy was picked up at least three days ago and was never produced in the court. “He was arrested for stealing a neighbour’s mobile phone at least three days ago. When I went to the police station, they told me that my son would be released soon. But now he has been beaten to death. He was not produced in court nor sent to any home,” the victim’s father told media persons earlier in the day. “My son had started taking heroin and ganja over the past two months. I have lost my son. What will I do by raising a complaint against the police?” the victim’s mother told media persons.
Although the protest was initially restricted to villagers from the victim’s village, BJP workers joined the protest soon.
“How can a minor hang himself in the police station when everything, with which he can commit suicide such as a towel and even the sacred thread, is taken away in police lockup? He was treated like this because his family members were BJP supporters,” said Dilip Ghosh, president of the West Bengal BJP unit.
The ruling Trinamool Congress has however rubbished the allegations saying the BJP is politicizing the issue. HT couldn’t independently confirm that the boy’s parents are BJP workers.
Later in the day, however, the victim’s father said: “I am not a supporter of any party. My son used to sometimes participate in TMC rallies.” “The BJP is a liar. When the parents are saying they do not support any party, how can the BJP say that the parents were BJP workers?” said Anubrata Mondol, TMC’s Birbhum chief. While the BJP has been claiming that more than 100 party workers have been killed in the TMC’s regime, the TMC has rubbished the claims.