When Saptarshi Roy cracked the all-India entrance exams to hotel management institutes last year and then made his way to a Bhubaneswar college, it was celebration time at home.
Less than seven months later, an uneasy hush has descended over the Bodyguard Lines home of the Roys, in Alipore. Saptarshi, tormented physically and mentally, first by seniors and then by four classmates from Bengal, is now recuperating under a psychiatrist in Calcutta and refuses to go back to the place of learning where he was driven to attempt suicide.
Saptarshi’s father, S.B. Roy, who is an officer in the security ring around former chief minister Jyoti Basu, has made several trips to the Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Training and Nutrition, trying to fathom what went wrong for his eldest son in Bhubaneswar.
Saptarshi joined the Institute last August. Initially, he put up at the college hostel where the ragging by seniors was brutal and never-ending. The freshers were ordered to polish their seniors’ shoes, play masseurs and regularly beaten up. Then, four freshers from Bengal, living in a private mess off-campus, threw him what looked like a lifeline. “Why don’t you come and stay with us'” they urged him, recounted Kalpana, Saptarshi’s mother, on Monday. They asked him to pay Rs 400 as boarding charges and move in.
Another chapter of Saptarshi’s horror story was about to unfold. One day, last December, according to the FIR lodged with Bhubaneswar police, his room-mates charged Saptarshi with stealing Rs 1,700 and their watches. They bashed him up till he “confessed” that he owed them Rs 2,600 for “everything” he had stolen from them.
The FIR states that Saptarshi was forced to sign a blank cheque, with which his ‘friends’ withdrew Rs 2,900 from an ICICI Bank branch on December 16.
Saptarshi’s father rushed to Bhubaneswar after receiving a distress-call from his son on December 17 and temporarily took him out of the mess. The FIR states that the next assault came on January 23, as the quartet waylaid Saptarshi, following which photocopies of his “confession” were circulated in class, where he was labelled a thief.
Saptarshi was beaten up again then next day and the matter reached principal B.P. Tripathi, but that did stop another brutal attack after Saraswati puja. Following this, Saptarshi took an overdose of sleeping pills.
S.B. Roy then lodged a complaint with Shahidnagar police station on February 12 and on February 16, brought his son back home. “The four have been arrested and are now in judicial custody,” sub-inspector D.K. Patnaik, of Shahidnagar, told Metro over telephone. But principal Tripathi dismissed the episode as a “hitch between classmates (that) happened outside class” and insisted “there was no ragging on campus”.
Try telling a traumatised Saptarshi that.