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Finger at TMC men for lodge owner’s death

The owner of a Howrah lodge was found dead in his chair at his Baguiati home on Monday morning, three days after his manager was allegedly assaulted by Trinamul workers who wanted a room in the establishment reserved as their den.

The family of Sumit Naha, 49, has blamed threatening calls to do the Trinamul workers’ bidding for his death.

His manager Asish Manna had lodged a complaint of assault with Golabari police station in Howrah against local Trinamul leader Dipak Shaw and his supporters on Friday, the family said.

“We had been receiving phone calls from Dipak Shaw to withdraw the police complaint against him. He had threatened my son with dire consequences four times on the night before his death,” said Naha’s mother Manju, co-owner of the lodge.

But Naha’s family hadn’t lodged any complaint naming Shaw until late on Monday.

Shaw is a former Trinamul president of ward No. 14 of the Howrah Municipal Corporation.

Naha’s manager had complained that Shaw and his men slapped and punched him when he refused to spare them a room at Bridge Lodge in Golabari last Friday.

A surveillance camera in the lodge, a few hundred metres from Howrah railway station, captured the assault on Manna. The CCTV footage shows Shaw sifting through the guest register after the manager apparently told him that all rooms were booked.

Naha’s family blames “incidents of the past few days” for his death, though the medical cause has yet to be established. Baguiati police station has started a case of unnatural death.

Naha was found dead in the living room of his home at Mahabir Apartment in Baguiati’s Sahapur.

“Sumit was in the living room, watching TV. Mousumi (Naha’s wife), who was sleeping in the next room, checked on him at 2.45am and found that he was sitting on a chair, lifeless. We took him to a nearby nursing home where he was declared dead on arrival,” said Manju.

The family said Naha was not suffering from any heart ailment.

Family sources said trouble started for Naha a few months ago when a Trinamul party office was set up in front of the lodge.

“They (Trinamul men) would often walk into the lodge and demand a room. They would drink, have fun and leave with money from the cash box,” a family member alleged.

“A similar scene played out on Friday… Shaw barged into the lodge with an associate, Riaz Khan, and asked manager Manna to give them a room,” he said. “Manna refused and all hell broke loose after that. He lodged a complaint of assault and criminal intimidation with Golabari police station in the evening.”

Naha was later summoned to the police station where he apparently stood by his manager.

The threat calls allegedly started after he endorsed Manna’s complaint, his elderly mother alleged.

The manager could not be reached for comment on Monday.

“The police has not taken any action against the accused despite the complaint filed on Friday,” a family member alleged.

Nishad Pervez, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters), Howrah, said a hunt has been launched for Shaw. “We are also checking Riaz’s involvement in the case,” he added.

Ashok Ghosh, the Trinamul MLA for North Howrah, said Shaw was expelled from the party following allegations that he was running an extortion racket.

“He was removed from the ward president’s post because of allegations of extortion. Right now we are not in a position to ascertain whether he is still engaged in such activities… Many people are misusing the party’s name,” he said.

Residents of the area alleged that Shaw was the one who set up the Trinamul office outside the lodge. “He spends most of his time in that office,” one of them said.

Naha’s mother said: “Shaw had told my son to stay away from the lodge. Sumit was too shocked and scared to go there after the last call in which Shaw said his men would run the lodge from now on. On Sunday night, his wife had heard him speaking to someone on the phone several times.”

Naha is survived by his wife and two children. His daughter is married while his son studies in a Vizag college.