Manju Naha, mother of Sumit Naha, the owner of a Howrah lodge who died following reports of harassment by a former Trinamul ward president and his supporters, regrets that she has been restricted by a walker since September last year and was not at the lodge to protect her son.
But she will not let it matter, says the 66-year-old, walking resolutely to meet the many visitors who are thronging her flat. She says she will start going to Howrah from her Baguiati residence, in a car, with her walker, to look after the business of the lodge.
She has nothing to lose any more. “Ami nyara-nangta (I am tonsured and naked),” she says. “I have lost my only son.”
She breaks down several times as she speaks but remains articulate.
Once an active member of Ganatantrik Mahila Samity, the CPM women’s wing, she does not want to talk about her political affiliation much. But she says she feels that she will have to step in and run the show.
Manju found her son lying lifeless in a chair in the early hours of Monday. He was 49. He was a quiet, soft-spoken man, who had never uttered a word of abuse to anyone, she says. He was scared, for some time, because of the goings-on at the lodge, and was unable to bear the humiliation that Trinamul activist Dipak Shaw and his acquaintance Riaz Khan subjected him to. They were pressuring him to withdraw the complaint of assault and criminal intimidation lodge manager Asish Manna had filed against them with the police on June 20.
A CCTV footage from the hotel shows a man resembling Shaw checking the hotel register on June 19.
On Sunday, June 22, says Manju, Sumit returned home early, around 5.30pm, looking downcast. He did not say much. Later he said Shaw and Riaz had pushed him out of his own lodge. “My son told me he will not go to the hotel any more. But phone calls kept coming. He died around 2.30 in the morning,” says Manju.
Sumit is survived by his wife Mousumi, daughter Upasana, who is married and lives in Bhadreshwar, and son Tathagata, a student of Class VIII in Ramakrishna Mission, Vizag.
Manju and Sumit’s family occupy two adjacent flats on the first floor of a building, waiting to move into their own flats that are being constructed nearby.
Manju says that the situation at the lodge had worsened over the past one year when she stopped going there after she broke her left leg.
She needs the support of a walker now.
Sumit had to manage the lodge alone. He could not deal with the demands of Shaw and his boys, who sat at the Trinamul office facing the 24-room lodge, and would often appear at late hours and demand rooms for their entertainment. “They would also check our registers and demand money,” she says.
“They couldn’t get away when I was around,” she says.
After her husband’s death five years ago, she and Sumit started looking after the lodge together. “But I stopped going since I broke my leg last year,” says Manju.
She says she or Sumit didn’t lodge a complaint with the police earlier because her son was afraid that it would increase the trouble.
She does not want to put a political colour to her loss, but says Dipak had told her: “Apni laal, ami sobuj (You are red, I am green).”
She is also bitter that the police have not visited her once since the complaint on June 20 and that no arrests have been made so far.
“My battle is to keep the lodge going. I do not know if there is any reason to hope. But they cannot take away my hotel from me. I will start going there soon. Once a few things are taken care of at home,” she says.