| The body of Sunit Karketta surrounded by students of St Joseph’s Primary School. Picture by Anirban Choudhury
Panialguri (Alipurduar), Aug. 14: A seven-year-old boy was crushed to death by a speeding police jeep that was chasing an overloaded pick-up van this afternoon.
The death sparked protests with residents of Panialguri area blocking NH 31C for more than four hours. They alleged that the policemen aboard the jeep, which belonged to the Kalchini police station, rounded up the driver and helper of the van without a glance at Sunit Karketta, who lay in a pool of blood.
More than 100 vehicles were stranded on both sides of the accident site because of the blockade.
Eyewitnesses said Sunit, a Lower KG student of St Joseph’s Primary School, was walking along the road with a group of friends when the jeep swerved to the left just after passing the Kalkut Bridge, 13km from Alipurduar town. It was trying to make way for a truck coming from the opposite direction.
An angry mob of around 400 people refused to let the Samuktala police take away the body for post-mortem.
A sobbing Mangro Lakra, Sunit’s friend, said: “We had been planning what we would do on Independence Day. We were also discussing about the chocolates that we will get tomorrow after singing the National Anthem in school.”
Sunit’s father, who earns his living selling firewood, was not on a position to speak.
Sukla Minj, an eyewitness, said the police jeep was giving a chase to the pick-up van because it was overloaded with vegetables and apples. “The police are so inhuman. They saw the boy writhing in pain and it was their own jeep that ran over him, yet they drove away. Sunit was alive for at least 20minutes. If the police had taken him to the nearest health centre or hospital, he might have survived. ”
Father E. Karketta, the headmaster of the school, which Sunit attended, said: “I went to the spot and I asked the subdivisional police officer (SDPO) of Alipurduar to visit the accident site. Sunit was an obedient student. ”
However, Mitesh Jain, the SDPO, had sent the inspector-in-charge of Alipurduar police station instead. The blockade was lifted around7.30pm and the body sent to Alipurduar Hospital for autopsy.
“The jeep belongs to Kalchini police station. I have received a report of the incident. It said the police jeep chasing the van had hit the boy and he died on the spot. We have arrested three persons, who were in the van. If we receive a complaint against the driver of our jeep, we will take necessary action against him,” said Jain.