Malda, Nov. 23: The death of a 16-year-old boy, burnt alive in his shop, has done little to make residents of Kumedpur shake off their indifference.
The incident which occurred early this morning under Harischandrapur police station, 120 km from here, has so terrorised the people that even Asraful Haq's family is scared to write in the police complaint that the bicycle shop he was sleeping in was set on fire deliberately.
As a result, though investigations are on, the post- mortem report states that death was accidental.
The man reportedly responsible for intimidating the people, however, has fled the area. Villagers, though sympathetic towards the Haq family, do not want to incur the wrath of Halim Sheikh, notorious for his criminal activities.
'Naturally we do not want to make him angry, especially when we know that the police will not be able to protect us,' one of the villagers accompanying Azizul Haq, Asraful's father, said.
Haq, who had come here with his son's body for postmortem, was inconsolable. 'My boy used to sleep every night in the shop so that it was not looted. Now they have not only ruined my shop but killed my boy as well,' Haq said.
Police sources said at 1.30 am a group of unknown people doused the shop with petrol and set it on fire. The blaze spread rapidly and engulfed an adjacent tea stall where a LPG cylinder exploded, triggering panic in the locality.
They also said Asraful could not come out of the shop, as it had been locked from the outside by Haq before he went home.
Sources said for the past few days a group of people, led by Sheikh, was trying to oust the shopowners who had stalls along the bypass adjacent to Kumedpur railway station. Two days ago, a medicine shop in the area was set on fire, probably by the same group. The police, however, are not certain whether today's incident was perpetrated by the same gang.
Former MLA and minister from Harishchandrapur, the Forward Bloc's Biren Moitra, said: 'Since the area is adjacent to Bihar, criminals from that state often seek shelter here. I have requested the police to ensure that the area does not turn into a crime hub,' Moitra said.
Police superintendent Dilip Mondal said an inquiry had been ordered, but no one has been arrested as yet.