The kangaroo-court style of meting out instant justice visited a city factory on Sunday, when guards of a private security agency beat a trespasser to death and then called in the cops to “take away a thief” they had “caught”.
The kicks and punches, accompanied by blows from batons and belts, started after the security personnel decided after a few minutes of deliberation to give the yet-to-be-identified 30-year-old “a police-type, third-degree session”.
The decision was reached much before daybreak and the “session” continued for over four hours, according to a police reconstruction of the event.
The man died before he could be taken to SSKM Hospital, said deputy commissioner (port) O.P. Gupta. Six of the seven guards on duty overnight were rounded up for interrogation and a search was on for the seventh, Taratala thana officer-in-charge S.C. Mitra added.
The crime was the second in a Taratala factory compound within a few months. Earlier this year, a 12-year-old girl was raped and murdered in an unused factory shed by five neighbours.
Esab India Ltd, which manufactures welding machinery, has its factory about 150 metres from Taratala police station. It has engaged a private security agency, Premier Security Pvt Ltd, to man the campus and seven of the agency’s men were on duty since Saturday night.
Around 3 am on Sunday, they noticed a man on the factory campus. He started running towards the factory wall when ordered to give himself up. But his pursuers managed to catch up with him before he could scale the wall.
The security personnel, led by supervisor Swapan Chatterjee, first asked the man to explain what he was doing on the premises. On not receiving a satisfactory response — they later told police it was obvious that he had come to steal metal scrap — they first debated “what to do with him”. A few minutes later, they decided to thrash the man for his crime, police said.
The beating continued past daybreak. Around 7 am, the man collapsed.
It was then that the securitymen decided to alert the local police station. One of the men called up the thana, asking officers on duty to come to the factory and take away a “thief” they had caught.
Police personnel came and took away the by-then limp body. The ‘thief’ was declared dead on arrival at SSKM Hospital.
When policemen returned to the factory, Chatterjee and five of the seven guards (four of them were identified as Sasanka Biswas, Budhiram Lakra, Gurucharan Koriali and Suchen Mandal) were still there. A brief interrogation led to the six arrests.
No Esab official in the factory would comment on the incident. The gates were shut from inside and no one admitted any knowledge of the alleged crime and barbaric punishment.
And Premier Security’s phone — at its Talbagan Lane office — kept on ringing.