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Death after party plays ‘arbiter’

- ‘Assault’ in Trinamul Congress office

A man who was summoned to a Trinamul Congress party office in Bagbazar by the local councillor’s son to settle a dispute with another tenant family on Saturday died less than an hour later.

Shubhendu Dutta’s daughter Sreetama, who had accompanied him to the party office but was not allowed to enter, alleged that her father was assaulted in the presence of ward 7 councillor Manjusree Das’s son, Bappa Choudhury. She has lodged an FIR with Shyampukur police station and three of the accused, all tenants, have been arrested.

Choudhury was not named in the FIR because of police reluctance, local residents who accompanied family members to the police station alleged. The Shyampukur police, however, denied the allegation.

Dutta, a physiotherapist, lived with his wife and two daughters at a rented house in Gopimohan Dutta Lane and had sublet a room about eight years ago. The landlord of the two-storeyed house lives in Siliguri.

An argument broke out between Dutta and the sub-tenants, Gopinath Shaw, his wife Sulekha and brothers Vijay and Chhotelal around 6pm on Saturday.

“Sulekha hit my sister Sreeparna with an iron rod and broke her left arm,” Sreetama said. “The attackers took my father to the party office, saying the councillor’s son wanted to hear about the dispute.”

“My father was assaulted at the party office where the son of the Trinamul councillor was present. I went with him but was not allowed to enter. I waited outside,” Sreetama said. “They opened the door of the party office and asked me to take my father to hospital. He kept vomiting and complained of respiratory trouble. He died on the way to hospital around 8.30pm.”

The police have arrested Gopinath, Sulekha and Vijay on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder while Chhotelal is absconding. One of the Shaws has a criminal antecedent. “Acchelal Shaw, the fourth brother, is serving a life term for murder,” an officer of Shyampukur police station said. The Shaws were present in the party office when Dutta was taken inside.

Choudhury, too, has admitted to being present when Dutta went to the office but denied assaulting him. He told the police that he was trying to settle the dispute when Dutta fell ill.

“We examined Bappa last night. We are investigating whether he had any role in Dutta’s death,” said the officer.

As news of Dutta’s death spread, local residents demanded Choudhury’s arrest and submitted a petition at Shyampukur police station.

“Why did the councillor’s son get involved in a dispute between two private parties? That is not his job,” said Moloy Mukherjee, Dutta’s neighbour.

Local residents alleged that Choudhury often forced them to get any renovation work done through him for a hefty fee. “Bappa is the de-facto councillor while his mother only has signing powers,” said Sidhartha Modak, another neighbour.

“Summoning people to the party office and extorting money had been a regular practice during the Left regime. The practice continues even with the change in power,” a local resident said.