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At 14, held and freed for rioting in hospital

After spending a night in a dark, dingy cell at Howrah police station, 14-year-old Anil Nakkel returned home on Wednesday. He was granted bail in a case of rioting inside Howrah State General Hospital on Tuesday.

Anil, his parents said, was picked up by police shortly after he had gone to the emergency ward of the Howrah hospital to look for his mother.

His only fault, according to mother Vidya Devi, was trying to get close to the superintendent’s office, where relatives and friends of Santosh Hela were protesting his mysterious disappearance and death.

Anil was close to the Hela family, and despite the difference in age, would get along very well with Santosh. His disappearance had perturbed Anil.

After pleading with the police all night, Vidya Devi and husband Munna Nakkel returned home on Belilious Road on Wednesday, resigned to their fate. “Maine dekha ki bete ko khub mara un logon ne (I saw my son being beaten up in the lock-up),” said Vidya Devi.

A few more youths, rounded up from the hospital compound, shared Anil’s cell. “None of them was from our locality. How they could have been protesting Hela’s death and destroying hospital property is a mystery to us,” said a neighbour, Chandan Rakshel.

Howrah police on Wednesday maintained that Anil had told them during interrogation he was over 16 years old, which is why he was detained and not sent to any juvenile home.

District police superintendent Zulfiquar Hasan added that Anil was caught destroying property within the hospital.

On Wednesday morning, father Munna and mother Vidya Devi went to the police station again to plead some more for Anil’s freedom on a personal bond.

“The police said there was nothing they could do, since a case had already been filed against him and Anil had to be produced in court,” Vidya Devi recounted.

Later, on hearing that Anil would be sent to court, younger brother Sunil went to the court lock-up. “I could not hold back my tears. My brother was weeping and kept repeating that he would not be able to show his face to the world now,” said Sunil, a Class IV student of the same school that Anil attends.

Around 4 pm, family members and neighbours learnt that Anil was to be released. Around 6 pm, he trudged back to his Belilious Road residence, after learning that on November 5, he will have to appear in court again.

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