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Holi hooligans crush protester to death

Calcutta, March 7: Shankar Pal of Dum Dum died on Saturday as Bapi Sen did over a year ago.

Pal’s head was smashed beyond recognition because he ticked off drunk Holi hooligans who were watching and teasing women bathing in a neighbourhood pond.

After the fracas, 37-year-old Pal, who has a 10-year-old son, was lured out of his residence by the “revellers” — all staying in the same locality — with the promise that they would make up with a drinking session.

He was taken to a nearby factory shed and, heavily outnumbered (like Sen), beaten up with blunt weapons for around two hours. Pal’s limp body was dropped off near his residence in front of several witnesses.

But the similarities — between the 2003-eve incident in Bowbazar and the Holi fracas in Dum Dum — end in both being acts of courage against perverts and their idea of fun during festivals. For, if Pal — driver of a key CPM functionary of South Dum Dum Municipality — was alive, he would have found police trying to pass off the murder as an accident.

Dum Dum police denied that the daylight incident was murder. “Pal was hit by a motorcycle and that resulted in his death,” officer-in-charge Sudip Ray said. “No one came forward to tell us what happened, forcing us to frame a case of a mishap,” he added.

The key to the case is Tapan Das, one of Pal’s friends, who has gone “missing”. Das, too, was picked up along with Pal but escaped with a thrashing. He came back but “went to a doctor” on Saturday afternoon itself, his brother Subhas said.

It was around 11 am on Holi when Pal was standing outside his Kaltala residence near Baguiati. Some of his neighbours — all women — were bathing in the locality pond when they were spotted by the drunk revellers.

According to witnesses (and an internal report prepared by the CPM), Pal’s resistance drove them away. The youths — all known faces in the locality — left, but returned in a few minutes. According to witnesses, they came and called Pal — and Das — out for a drink, telling them that bygones should be just that.

But a couple of hours later, Pal’s near-lifeless body was dumped on the road, less than 100 metres from his residence.

Some of his neighbours clammed up on Sunday and the family, whose home had a direct view of the spot where Pal was dropped, left soon after the Saturday incident. But a few said Pal was beaten up at an unused factory-shed in the locality. “We knew what was happening but felt it prudent not to get involved,” one said.

After the assailants went away, Pal’s neighbours informed his wife Kamala and son Jaydeep and shifted Pal to a nursing home.

“Pal was bleeding severely with deep gashes in his ears and some of his teeth were broken,” Aditya Nursing Home administrator Sanjay Datta said. “Some blunt weapon must have been used on him.”

The key CPM civic functionary, whose car Pal used to drive, said he would try to ensure that there was no miscarriage of justice.

“If a daylight murder in front of so many people is passed off as a mishap, it will be a severe betrayal of Pal’s courage and sense of duty to society,” chairman-in-council (conservancy and health) Atin Ray said.

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