Shantipur (Nadia), April 25: A young man who stood up against teasing of schoolgirls by local youths was burnt to death inside his stationery shop here early this morning.
Prabir Ghosh, 30, had been warned a few days ago for daring to raise his voice against the bullies. “Keep away or we will burn you alive,” they told him.
Police are still not certain whether someone had set the shop off National Highway 34, about 75 km from Calcutta, ablaze. But preliminary evidence suggests that the goons kept their word.
Police sources said the overhead electric cables are intact, as is the banyan tree adjacent to the shop.
“At the moment, it is difficult to tell if someone had set the fire intentionally. But it does suggest that it was not a mere accident. The main power line passes very close to the shop and a short circuit would certainly affect the cables,” an officer of the local police station said.
A clutch of local people who patrol the area at night was the first to notice the fire. “We saw the flames from a distance and rushed to the spot. Some of us tried to douse the flames with the help of villagers while the others went to the police. It was all ashes before we could do anything,” said Rishi Ghosh, who was among the vigilantes.
Ghosh was killed in sleep. His charred body was recovered.
“The incident took place around 1.30 am. When we reached the spot, about an hour later, there was nothing. Preliminary investigations suggest a sabotage but we are also looking into possibilities of short-circuit from where the fire could have spread,” said superintendent of police Pankaj Dutta.
The officer of the local police station said: “No one has yet come up with a complaint against the miscreants who allegedly set the shop on fire. We have called in forensic experts to get a detailed picture of how the fire broke out. A few people are being questioned. The body has been sent for postmortem.”
Ghosh was popular among students of Dwariknath High School. His store, packed mostly with school stationery, used to teem with students before and after classes and during breaks.
“All of us liked him. We’ve lost a friend. Some youths used to wait outside the school premises to harass and tease our girls when they went by. Ghosh would invariably drive them away,” said Sudipto Biswas, a Class XI student.
A bachelor, Ghosh used to stay alone. His three sisters are married and his brother is a BSF jawan posted in Kashmir. Since his mother’s death three months ago, Ghosh was staying the nights at the tin-shed shop because he felt it was insecure.
One of the sisters, Shefali, said: “Both my brothers were very upright and honest. That is the reason he had to pay with his life. Only a week ago I visited him and he told me that miscreants had threatened to burn him alive if he came in their way.”