The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Suicide slant to midnight blaze

A midnight fire claimed the life of an infant and injured his family members in the Muchipara area on Thursday. Chotu Kumar Singh, barely a year and a half, died, while his parents, Vikrant, 32, and Nisha, 25, uncle Debkant, 28, and brother Sachi, 2, were seriously injured in the blaze that engulfed their central Calcutta home.

Vikrant’s father, Raj Kumar Singh, 52, and mother Manju, 45, also suffered burn injuries but were discharged from hospital after first-aid. Doctors said Nisha, Sachi and Vikrant are fighting for their lives at Nilratan Sirkar Hospital, while Debkant is recovering from his injuries.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Soumen Mitra, said sleuths are investigating the cause of fire. “Initially, we thought that a stove that burst had caused the fire, but forensic experts have ruled that out. Sleuths have zeroed in on two other possibilities. Either Nisha was trying to commit suicide and the others were burnt while trying to save her, or else the family was trying to set her on fire and got burnt themselves,’’ Mitra said.

The Singhs have lived in the three-room rented ground-floor flat in Suri Lane, in Muchipara, for the past four decades. Shankar Sharma, the landlord, and the family’s neighbours said the Singhs would often quarrel among themselves. “We overheard heated conversations off and on,’’ said Toton Das, a neighbour. The landlord, too, corroborated that there were “problems in the family”. “It could be a coincidence, but on Thursday evening, the father and son had a fight with Nisha,’’ Sharma said.

Speaking from his hospital bed, Vikrant said he was chatting with his father when a stove lit by Nisha to heat milk for the two children burst. Sachi and Chotu were sitting beside their mother. “Suddenly, there was a loud noise and I saw Nisha and the children in flames. I rushed to save them but my clothes caught fire. Then, I raised an alarm,’’ Vikrant recalled. Debkant and the others, too, rushed to save the victims but were caught in the blaze.

Landlord Sharma was among the first to reach the spot. “I had just returned home and was settling down for dinner when I heard the screams and saw smoke coming out of the ground floor. Calling out to the neighbours, we rushed the family to NRS,’’ he said.

The Singhs deal in plastic and operate from their home. Deputy commissioner of police, central, Zulfiquar Hasan, said Nisha’s parents have been informed of the tragedy in Katihar, Bihar.

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