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Suicide after demand for Rs 27 lakh

Suri, Oct. 9: A ration dealer’s son hanged himself in Birbhum’s Nalhati today after villagers demanded Rs 27 lakh from his father.

Utpal Narasundar, 28, who looked after the shop, tied a nylon rope around his neck even as some residents of Shitalgram met in a temple to force his father to sign an undertaking to pay the money.

The Congress chief of the local village panchayat, Abdul Alim, chaired the meeting in which CPM member Narayan Chandra Saha tried to pacify the villagers who accused Chandrakishore of smuggling foodgrain over the past year.

“The villagers were adamant. I tried to tell them that they should not do anything illegal,” Saha said.

Utpal was found missing when the meeting was nearing its end. He was found dead in the shop, 295km from Calcutta.

Neighbours said Chandrakishore had tried to convince the villagers that Rs 27 lakh was too big an amount for him. “But they created so much pressure that he had to promise the money. Utpal was probably unnerved by his father’s decision,” said Dulu Mondal.

The shop would have been looted two days ago had the villagers not hit upon the extortion idea, Dulu added.

“We are probing the death. But we have not come across any undertaking signed by the ration dealer,” subdivisional police officer Mrinal Majumdar said.

This is the third dealer’s suicide in a fortnight. The first two occurred in Bankura.

Loot and arson continued elsewhere in Birbhum and in Murshidabad. Ration dealers were also attacked in Nadia and South 24-Parganas, where no such incident had occurred earlier.

Around 200 villagers, including women and children, raided Sandip De’s house-cum-shop at Paikpara in Nalhati aro-und 11am today. Sandip’s 50- year-old mother Kalyani Devi was slapped and pushed to the ground in his absence.

Some of the villagers smashed the windowpanes of his house and some broke into the shop and took away rice and kerosene. The house was ransacked and the furniture dragged out and set on fire.

“Everything was over by the time we reached,” Majumdar said.

Sunil Dey’s house and shop were looted at Swarupgunj in Nadia, 100km from Calcutta. In South 24-Parganas’ Raidighi, 70km from the city, Indrajit Samanta’s shop was looted. He was beaten up.

Two similar incidents were reported from Murshidabad’s Nabagram.

Home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray said in Calcutta the ration “mess”, against which villagers have been protesting across south Bengal, was a “political problem”.

“The panchayat department has been told to oversee the distribution system. There is anger among common people regarding this mess,” he said.

Inspector-general (law and order) Raj Kanojia said additional forces are being deploy- ed in Birbhum, Murshidabad, Bankura, Nadia and Burdwan. “However, it is not possible to make security arrangements for every dealer.”

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