The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ostracised after subscription row

Calcutta, Oct. 16: A family in Titagarh on the northern fringes of Calcutta is facing “social ostracism” for not paying the exorbitant subscription demanded by the local puja committee.

The Pujas are over, but Anil Das, a 58-year-old officer of the Geological Survey of India, and his schoolteacher wife and 21-year-old daughter have been denied all social rights since this morning.

The local vegetable vendors, fish-sellers and rickshaw-pullers were not allowed to attend to the family as the club members have issued a threat. Moreover, they are now “suggesting” that the officer sell his house and leave the area.

Police arrested two club members on Saptami after receiving a complaint of forcible subscription collection. “Our policemen, too, were attacked when they went there to arrest the accused persons. We are now looking for 20 other club members,” said Paresh Roy, the officer-in-charge of Titagarh police station. “We have already provided security to the family.”

Trouble started for the Das’ from Mahalaya. The members of the Kalianibas Sarbojanin Durga Puja Committee demanded Rs 201 as subscription from Das. “Das clearly told the club members that the amount was beyond his capacity and he would not be able to pay it. The adamant youths left the place without paying any heed to Das’ requests,” said a police officer official probing the case.

Three days later, they returned. This time Das sought to buy peace with Rs 131. But the chanda collectors refused and left.

“A group of 20 aggressive youths assembled in front of Das’ house on the morning of Sasthi. They raided the GSI officer’s house and used filthy language in front of his wife and daughter. The mob also ransacked the house,” said the police officer.

As soon as the mob left, Das informed the special cell at Lalbazar. On receiving the message, the local police carried out a raid on Saptami and rounded up two club members — Bappa Dasgupta, booked once earlier for forced chanda collection, and Bubul Dasgupta.

“We have prepared a list of 20 others who attacked the policemen during the raid. Besides, we are keeping an eye on the family. When our force had gone to a hideout to arrest some of the club members, they attacked the policemen and tried to resist arrest,” said Roy.

But Das could never have imagined the plight that awaited him this morning. He went to the local market, which he has been visiting for 10 years, and returned with an empty bag. “When Das asked, the traders refused to sell fish and vegetables. On his way back, the rickshaw-puller refused to ferry him. Finally, the owner of a small shop — only a few metres from Das’ house — refused to sell him cigarettes,” said a police official, who collected these pieces of information after conducting a day-long investigation.

Das’ daughter, who studies microbiology in a reputed institution in Bangalore, has returned home recently for treatment.

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