Deben Das at his Durgapur home. Picture by Arup Sarkar
Durgapur, July 9: A 75-year-old man has become a pawn in a feud between two Trinamul factions in Durgapur, with one forcibly closing down the cable fee collection centre he runs while the other trying to browbeat him into reopening it.
Last night, Deben Das, a retired Durgapur Projects Ltd (DPL) employee whose only source of income is the Rs 1,000 he earns every month as commission from the cable operator, was beaten up for keeping the shop open despite “orders” to close it.
The owner of the cable company, Tushar Biswas, is apparently close to the leader of one of the factions, Biswanath Padial, a four-time councillor now sidelined in the party who wants the shop open.
The rival faction led by Debdas Majumdar, who unsuccessfully contested the Durgapur Municipal Corporation polls in June, has been allegedly trying to close down the collection centre at DPL Colony for the past four days because of Biswas’s perceived proximity to Padial.
Das said Trinamul activists belonging to Majumdar’s group demanded to know last night why he had kept the shop open. “When I told them that Padial’s loyalists had warned him against downing shutters, they kicked and punched me,” he said.
“I told them that I am a poor man and had nothing to do with politics. I requested them not to make me a pawn in Trinamul’s intra-party squabbles but they refused to listen. They said if I reopened the shop, they would beat me up again. What do I do?”
Padial’s loyalists, who were sitting in a nearby party office, came to Das’s rescue and soon the altercation snowballed into a clash. Both groups fought with bamboo sticks and also hurled bricks at each other. Two youths from each faction suffered injuries and were hospitalised.
“I got scared. I wriggled past the Trinamul activists and ran home. I asked my wife not to open the door even if anybody called me,” Das said.
Das, who has been living in the DPL colony with his family for the past four decades, said he was feeling helpless.
Two Trinamul factions emerged in the colony after the Assembly elections last year, one headed by Majumdar and the other by Padial. Colony residents said the groups clashed frequently.
Ashim Bose, a local Trinamul leader close to Padial, said: “Das’s only source of income is the commission he earns from the cable operator by collecting subscriptions.”
Bose alleged some Congress workers who had switched to Trinamul after the Assembly polls had closed down Das’s shop. “We are with Das and have been protesting against such strong-arm tactics. We have asked him to keep the shop open,” he said.
Das said he would be in dire straits if he could not reopen the shop. “I have spent all my life’s savings on my daughter’s marriage. The Rs 1,000 I earn a month means a lot to me. I do not get pension as I had joined DPL in 1962, when the facility was not available. My son works at a warehouse and earns Rs 2,000 a month. I am a heart patient,” Das said, tears welling up in his eyes.
Majumdar loyalist Ananda Ruidas said Padial’s camp had hatched a conspiracy against the rival faction. “Debdasda has been trying to highlight corruption by Padial’s followers. This has irked them. They ransacked our party office and beat up our workers last night. We have lodged a police complaint,” Ruidas said.
Padial’s faction has lodged a counter-complaint with the police.
Both Majumdar and Padial refused comment.