The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Biriyani caterer dies in custody

Sept. 17: You can’t miss the irony.

Ranajit Saha, who was sent to judicial custody for serving adulterated biriyani, died in hospital today, but the 250 people who fell ill after tasting the stuff have all survived.

The 42-year-old co-owner of a Dum Dum eatery was shifted to R.G. Kar Hospital last night after he was suddenly taken ill. His condition deteriorated and doctors identified it as an acute case of diarrhoea. He died this evening.

Family members and local residents of Dum Dum who had converged at the hospital said Saha died of “torture” in custody and demanded a probe. The state government has announced that a post-mortem will be conducted to clear all doubts. “If there is any foul play, the post-mortem report will reveal the truth,” director of medical education C.R. Maity said.

On Sunday, Saha had been “rescued” by police from a 100-strong mob out to lynch him along with three employees of his shop, where the biriyani was prepared. Saha was taken to Dum Dum police station and the police later decided to press charges against him.

The trouble started after the biriyani, packed in plastic containers, was distributed among those who had participated in a local blood donation camp. Many of the donors took the biriyani home and shared it with family members.

People started falling ill immediately after, and soon the number swelled to 252. They had to be admitted to the infectious diseases hospital at Beleghata. The needle of suspicion then pointed towards Saha and his partner Sougata Mukherjee.

This evening, as news of Saha’s death spread to Dum Dum and adjoining areas, a 500-strong mob, including some local CPM leaders, gathered at the hospital shouting slogans that the police was responsible for his death. “Saha was tortured by the police inside the lock-up. We have a strong suspicion that this was a conspiracy,” shouted Asim Patra, a close friend. Saha was lodged in Barrackpore jail and his bail plea was supposed to come up for hearing on Friday.

Hospital authorities tried to calm the mob, saying Saha did not die of “any injury” but of a massive cerebral attack.

But the mob remained unconvinced and, at one point, even tried to sneak into the medicine department.

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