Calcutta, Oct. 21: Teenager Anil Nakkal had reached the Howrah State General Hospital emergency ward from his house on Belilious Lane in search of his mother who had gone to consult doctors there. A few hours later, he was inside the Howrah police lock-up for “rioting” and disobeying the chief minister’s ban on demonstrations at hospitals.
Anil, 14, shared a cordial relation with the family of Santosh Hela, the sweeper whose body was found today, and had been depressed since Santosh disappeared from the hospital.
“Anil told me he was missing Santosh’s company. The two used to crack jokes and although there was a gulf between their ages, both were good friends,” recalled Vimal, a neighbour.
Around 1.30 pm, Anil was about to enter the emergency ward when he heard about Santosh’s demise. “Arre Anil, dekh kya ho gaya (Anil, see what has happened),” a neighbour cried to him.
Anil immediately rushed to the main compound of the hospital, where a mob had gathered to protest against Santosh’s mysterious death. “Come out of the office and tell us what has happened,” shouted the sweeper’s relatives and friends.
A stunned Anil hung around, though his family members were urging him to leave immediately. “Go home. You are young and will get into trouble,” they pleaded.
Initially Anil refused, but agreed to go back only after he had seen his friend’s body. By then, the protesters had left the area. Only Anil sat sobbing, asking everybody where they had kept Santosh’s body.
At this point, the police pounced on him. “You were with the rioters and must be punished for your actions. Don’t you know that the chief minister has ordered (us) to keep the hospital trouble-free,” the policemen shouted as they shoved him into a van.
As soon as news spread to Belilious Lane, people thronged Howrah police station with requests to release him. “No way, he will be produced in court tomorrow,” a resident quoted S.. Kanjilal, the investigating officer in the case, as telling them.
Kanjilal told The Telegraph that Anil was “at least 20 years old and was definitely involved in rioting inside the hospital premises”.
Residents of Belilious Lane iterated that the police were making a mistake. Anil was not involved in any demonstration inside the hospital. “Is this the way to follow the chief minister’s directive' I feel very sorry for him,” said Chandan Rakshel, a neighbour.