| Five-year-old Gopal in the arms of his father, Santosh Das, at Barasat court on Tuesday. Santosh denied having sold his son to Putul Das for Rs 20,000, though a local club claims to have rescued the child from the woman on Monday. Picture by Aranya Sen
For the Barasat club that caught up with Putul Das while she was taking five-year-old Gopal away, after allegedly buying him from his father for Rs 20,000, there were brickbats, not bouquets, in store on Tuesday.
A few hours after Pioneer Park Club members turned Putul and Gopal’s father, Santosh Das, over to the cops, Barasat police ‘hit back’ by turning visitors away from the club’s Kali puja pandal, one of the most popular in the district headquarters.
The announcements — warning pandal-hoppers not to enter the club’s puja — started around 10 minutes past 11 pm on Monday, just before the idol was to be taken away for immersion.
What triggered the curious cop “action” on a club that had, apparently, helped the administration detect an alleged case of child-sale' The local police were far from forthcoming. Barasat circle inspector Ajitananda Bhattacharya laughed off the allegation. Nothing of the sort had happened, he said, though the entire steer-clear-of-Pioneer Park operation had taken place in full media glare.
Investigating officer in the case S. Panja — vexed by allegations of a police attempt to hush up the case — said all charges against the men in uniform were “baseless”.
First, the allegations. Pioneer Park Club members, including club secretary Joydeb Das, told reporters that Panja, among the first policemen to arrive on the spot around 3.45 pm on Monday, initially tried to “negotiate” a settlement between them and Putul.
“He (Panja) told us he would ensure Putul paid us Rs 15,000 if we did not press charges against her and not call the media,” Jaideb said on Tuesday. “When we refused, he said we were not doing the right thing.”
Added club member Saumya Das: “Panja left after we insisted that we would be doing a great disservice to the people if we did not call in the media, but he warned us that we would have to pay for taking such a stand.”
Around 7 pm on Monday, Pioneer Park Club members got a taste of things to come. Some policemen in uniform stationed themselves at the entrance to the club’s pandal and shooed away visitors. When “VIP entry” passes were produced, they were taken and torn.
But with pandal-hoppers continuing to stream in, the announcements — warning people to stay away from the popular local puja — started after 11. “Do not enter this pandal. If you do, you are doing so at your own risk,” the police-managed public address system barked out.
On Tuesday, Panja denied having tried to strike a “deal” between club members and Putul; Bhattacharya said police had not done “anything illegal”.