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Cops fail to find ‘torture’ victim

Jaigaon, Jan. 7: Police teams from Jaigaon, Hasimara and Madarihat today drew a blank in their search for Santosh Rai, a youth from a remote village in Ballalguri who had been allegedly tortured by his neighbours and thrown into the Torsa on Saturday for stealing betel nuts worth Rs 200.

According to his brother Raju, the villagers had tied Santosh to a jeep and dragged him for 2km before pouring acid on his eyes, smashing his head and finally dumping the body in the Torsa. All this happened in a field adjacent to the Totopara Ballalguri gram panchayat office, which was closed for the weekend.

“We have started a case on the basis of a complaint lodged with Jaigaon police station by one of Santosh’s close relatives,” Alipurduar additional superintendent of police K.B. Dorji said today.

The victim’s family had not lodged any complaint till yesterday out of fear. The Rais and the attackers live in Dakshin Ballalguri, a sleepy hamlet nestled among tea gardens and located 50km from Jaigaon town.

While the village is within the jurisdiction of Hasimara police outpost (itself under Jaigaon police station), the place where the alleged atrocities took place is the responsibility of the Madarihat police station.

However, the police teams also failed to trace Ayangkhen Karji, the owner of the Commander jeep that was reportedly used to drag Santosh from the village to the field near the gram panchayat office.

The other two main accused, Mahendra Karji and Shyamal Champramari, are also missing. Santosh had been caught stealing betel nuts from a grove owned by these two men.

Most of the male villagers fled the area following police raids, which took place this morning. Those who have remained refused to speak.

Khagen Toto, the pradhan of Totopara Ballalguri gram panchayat, claimed that he had been away since January 4. “I suspect that Santosh has fled the area,” he said.

Juspina Ekka, whose husband stays in Kashmir, said Santosh was a “confirmed thief” who had stolen a bicycle, hens, utensils and other things from her house in the past one month.

The additional police chief said the search for Santosh and raids to arrest the accused would continue. “Even if the villagers do not cooperate with us, we shall engage our own network to get to the truth.”

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