Teenager’s custodial death sparks stir in Bengal

Suri/Kolkata: A 15-year-old boy has died in police custody in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, triggering a mob attack on the police station on Friday and prompting the BJP to call a 12-hour bandh in Mallarpur area on Saturday.

The police claimed the teenager was found hanging in the toilet of Mallarpur police station on Thursday night, while the BJP alleged that the law enforcers had beaten him to death as his parents were saffron party supporters.

The teenager’s father, however, said he is a TMC supporter and his son has died by suicide.

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The police said a magisterial probe has been ordered into the incident.

The final rites of the boy were performed at Tarapith burning ghat amid tight police security after the conduct of the post-mortem examination.

The BJP and some neighbours of the boy claimed he was picked up by the police three days ago.

Superintendent of Police Shyam Singh, however, said he was apprehended on Thursday afternoon on charges of theft and was kept in a separate guarded room at Mallarpur police station.

“Around 9.25 pm on the previous day, he went to the toilet and hanged himself,” the officer said.

The state president of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the BJP’s youth wing, and Bishnupur MP Saumitra Khan, however, staged a sit-in demonstration outside the police station, demanding punishment for the officer-in-charge.

BJP workers, joined by some locals, blocked a national highway and burnt tyres to protest the “cold-blooded custodial murder”.

“We have called a 12-hour bandh in Mallarpur on Saturday. If the culprits are not punished, we will go for a state-wide bandh,” Khan said.

Earlier in the day, irate locals attempted to storm the police station and pelted the policemen with stones when they tried to disperse them.

The boy’s parents, however, said they did not want any violence as their son has “died by suicide”.

“I am a TMC supporter. From whatever information I have received from various sources, we are of the view that my son, who was detained on theft charges, has hanged himself to death. We have no complaint against the police,” the teenager’s father told reporters.

His statement came minutes after TMC’s district chief and party strongman Anubrata Mondal alleged the BJP was “doing politics” over the incident and the parents of the boy were never associated with the saffron party.

Khan, however, said the boy’s parents were “forced” by Mondal and his party men to give such a statement as an atmosphere of “fear and terror” prevails in the district.

“The BJP is hell-bent on disrupting peace in the state by instigating mob violence. It is doing cheap politics over a stray incident. The boy’s family members don’t have any complaint against the police,” local TMC MLA Abhijit Roy said.

A senior police officer said a magisterial probe has been ordered and a medical board conducted the post-mortem examination with adherence to the guidelines laid down by the National Human Rights Commission.

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