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Suicide after ‘peeping Tom’ punishment

Calcutta, Sept. 2: Thrashed with shoes and brooms for allegedly peeping into the rooms of a ladies’ hostel and “disowned” a week later by his father, a 21-year-old fish-seller in the Baranagar area of north Calcutta hanged himself yesterday night, unable to bear the double humiliation.

As the news of Ashis Mandal’s death spread, residents of the Jhulantala neighbourhood took pity on him and the “trivial circumstances” under which he was forced to take his life. About 3,000 of them gathered in front of the hostel soon after and went on rampage, breaking its chairs and windows.

The police today arrested the owner of the hostel, two inmates and two others who had accompanied them to Ashis’ home to bash him up. The Baranagar police held them on charges of abetment to suicide.

Elaborating on the incident, North 24-Parganas superintendent of police Harisena Verma said Ashis was reportedly caught peeping into the rooms from the second floor of an adjacent building on August 24.

Hostel owner Gopal Mandal, who is also a lawyer, Minakshi Chowdhury and Chandrani Sinha marched to Ashis’ house nearby. Two local youths, Pradip Ghosh and Manik Ghosh, joined them there.

The five of them dragged Ashis out and beat him with chappals and brooms. His 55-year-old father, Basudeb Mandal, requested them to let his son go. He promised that he would teach him a lesson. But the agitated group paid no heed. The two ladies kept on beating him with brooms in full view of the neighbours.

Unable to bear the humiliation, Ashis left home next morning. “I had no idea where he had gone. I contacted my relatives but he was not there,” said Basudeb.

Not satisfied with the “punishment” meted to the youth, the hostel owner and the others went to the Mandal household the very day Ashis had left. They summoned the father and allegedly forced him to sign on a stamped paper, which said: “I disinherit my son and I will never allow him inside my house if he comes back.”

“I was forced to sign on the document,” Mandal said.

Gathering courage to face the neighbourhood, Ashis returned home yesterday morning, only to find out about this development. His mother had died few years ago, and when he got to know that his father had “disowned” him, Ashis locked himself in his room. “He was inside for a long time,” his father said.

“In the evening, when he had still not opened the door, I called the neighbours.” They broke the door open when there was no response to repeated knocking. Ashis was hanging from the ceiling, his body lifeless. He had used the sheet on his bed. He was rushed to hospital, where he was declared “brought dead.”

By 11 pm that night, the news of his death had spread. The residents of the locality, who were aware of the whole episode, marched to the hostel. The police rushed to the spot and the rampage was brought under control around 1 am after the five were arrested.

“Ashis was known to be well-mannered. We had never found anything wrong with his behaviour. It is very possible that the hostel owner and the inmates found a scapegoat in him,” said a neighbour.

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