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Taken for thief, trader dead in cell

Calcutta, June 16: Sunil Roy was chased down a railway platform yesterday and thrashed by a mob that suspected him to be a pickpocket.

Today, he was found hanging from the ceiling of a Government Railway Police lock-up, his leather belt tied around the neck.

The police had rescued the 40-year-old fish stall owner from being lynched by the mob at Santragachhi station and arrested him for 'suspicious activities'.

A constable who went to get Roy out of the lock-up at the GRP's Santragachhi platform post around 11 am, to take him to court, saw him hanging. He raised an alarm and other railway police personnel rushed in.

Roy's son Abhijit alleged that his father was tortured to death in police custody. 'A simple cold would have made him so jittery that he would see a doctor. He could not have committed suicide. He must have been tortured,' Abhijit said.

Roy had a two-storey house at Shyamsundar Chowk in Uluberia. He left home around 7 am yesterday for the Howrah fish market, where he had a flourishing business.

Abhijit, who helped his father in business, said the allegation of him being a pickpocket was 'absurd'.

'He was an honest businessman. Picking pockets was the last thing he could do. Police are spreading a cock-and-bull story to cover up their crime,' he added, struggling to hold back tears.

Three personnel of the railway police's Santragachhi post have been suspended and a magistrate's inquiry has been ordered.

GRP officials said Roy was arrested around 8.30 yesterday morning. 'The assistant sub-inspector, who was in-charge of the platform post this morning and two constables were suspended for dereliction of duty. We have registered an unnatural death case and launched an investigation,' said Arunaksha Banerjee, the GRP deputy superintendent, Kharagpur range.

Banerjee said Roy was found running along the platform with the mob behind him. The mob had forced him out of a local train. Abhijit said his father took a train coming from Kharagpur at Bauria, on his way to Howrah.

'He was not carrying a valid ticket,' said Banerjee.

'That is out of the question. He never travelled without one,' countered Abhijit.

When the police sent the body to Howrah General Hospital for post-mortem, the authorities there refused to do so because of the serious nature of the death.

'The body was then taken to Calcutta Medical College,' the deputy superintendent said. 'We have informed the subdivisional officer, headquarters, and a magisterial inquest was done as the death occurred in police custody.'

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