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Custody murder slur on Durgapur police

Durgapur, Sept. 4: Relatives and co-workers of a mason today demonstrated in front of Durgapur police station with his body for over eight hours alleging that he died because of police torture.

The police denied the allegation and said 33-year-old Uttam Mal, who hails from Murshidabad, had injured himself when he “jumped off a bike” while being taken to the police station on September 1.

Uttam’s relatives and co-workers alleged the police had picked up the mason and two others when they were returning home from work on Saturday evening.

The 100-odd protesters, who arrived with the body at 9am, demanded that the accused policemen be punished.

“My son was innocent. The police falsely accused him of plotting a theft. When he protested, he was beaten up so badly that he died. The police are cooking up stories to cover up the incident,” said Nimai Mal, 60.

“He was the family’s sole bread-winner. What will happen to his wife and four daughters?” he added.

Nimai has lodged a complaint with the additional deputy commissioner of police (east), Sunil Yadav.

Two civic police voluntary force (CPVF) personnel had picked up Uttam, Bhanu Mal and Duryodhan Mal when they were walking past an outpost, Duryodhan said.

“They accused us of plotting a theft. We told them we were masons and had come to the town recently from Murshidabad. We showed them our voter cards, but they called in reinforcements to take us to the police station. We got scared and started running,” Duryodhan said.

Duryodhan and Bhanu fled but the police caught Uttam.

Around 10pm, some policemen came to the under-construction building in Sepco township where the masons stay and told contractor Salwar Sheikh that Uttam had met with an accident.

“They told me Uttam was in Durgapur subdivisional hospital. I was surprised as I knew the police had picked up Uttam. When I asked the police how he met with an accident as he had been taken to the police station, they warned me against arguing with them,” Salwar said.

Salwar went to the hospital with some of the masons and found Uttam bleeding profusely from the head.

“The policemen asked us to take Uttam to a hospital in Behrampore as he hailed from there. They also gave us Rs 2,500. I suspected foul play but decided against arguing with the police. We took him to Behrampore general hospital, where he died last morning,” Salwar said.

Sources in the Behrampore hospital said Uttam had a head injury and lung haemorrhage.

“He died two hours after being admitted,” said Ananda Mandal, the deputy superintendent of the hospital.

A doctor said: “There was a head injury and internal haemorrhage in his lungs. The injuries were serious and could have been caused by either a fall or after being hit with a blunt instrument.”

Additional deputy commissioner Yadav said: “We did not beat up Uttam. He injured himself after jumping off the bike when he was being taken to the police station. The police can pick up anybody and take him to the police station for interrogation. We will investigate the complaint.”

Around 5pm, the protesters took the body to subdivisional officer Ayesha Rani A.’s office. They left for Behrampore after the SDO assured them that the issue would be looked into.