Someswar Boral | TNN | Oct 31, 2020, 06:00 IST
Birbhum: A 15-year-old Dalit boy, detained in connection with a petty theft here on Thursday, was found dead at Mallarpur police station by night, sparking protests on Friday.
Local residents, who stormed the thana in the morning, the BJP and the boy’s family claim he was beaten to death in custody. Police, however, maintain that the teenager hanged himself. West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR) has sought a report on the minor’s death from Birbhum SP and DM. It is also sending a member to Mallarpur for inquiry.
The last rites of the boy were performed at Tarapith burning ghat amid tight security and in presence of his family members as well as Trinamool’s Mayureswar MLA Abhijit Roy. No BJP leader was present at the ghat, but party supporters blocked the national highway at Bahina More. The BJP has also called a 12-hour bandh in Mallarpur on Saturday.
BJP district general secretary Atanu Chatterjee said the boy’s family members were party supporters for a long time. “He was framed in a false case and beaten to death in custody.” Police officers denied the allegations and said he was “kept in a child-friendly corner at the thana” and was to be produced before the Juvenile Justice Board on Friday.
“Around 9.25pm, he went to the toilet and hanged himself. He was rushed to Mallarpur BPHC, where the on-duty medical officer declared him brought dead. His parents were accordingly informed. The body was shifted to Rampurhat Medical College and Hospital for post-mortem,” Birbhum SP Shyam Singh said.
According to the written complaint of the medical officer, a case has been started, the district police chief said and added that an appeal had been sent to Rampurhat ACJM court and SDEM for judicial inquiry and magisterial inquest as per rules.
The father of the boy said he was picked up by police because he might have been drunk. “My son was addicted and may have committed some petty crime. Cops may have beaten him up.”
WBCPCR chairperson Ananya Chatterjee said they had taken cognisance of the case. “We are probing the incident with utmost seriousness, as a child has died at a police station. We don’t want this to become a caste issue because Bengal does not practise caste discrimination. Our member Sekhar Bhattacharya will visit the family and the police station on Saturday,” Chatterjee said.
A BJP leader claimed police hurriedly burnt the body. “They were afraid of a second post-mortem or further investigation. The parents are being forced to act as police wish,” he said.
TMC MLA Roy said the teenager “accidentally” died in police custody. “Police would have produced him before the Juvenile Justice Board today. His parents have no complaint against police. His family has been a party supporter. We are standing beside his bereaved kin,” Roy added.