Barasat, Dec. 16: A gang of five extortionists raided a medicine shop here last night and battered its 65-year-old owner to death after he refused to cough up the money they demanded.
As news of Haraprasad Gupta's death spread in the locality, 23 km from Calcutta, angry residents came out with rods and lathis around 11 this morning and attacked the houses of Amal Bikram, Manu Pal, Sukumar Mondal, Arjun Das and Joykal Ghosh, all known goons.
The mob broke into their houses, beat up their family members and pulled furniture out onto the road and set them ablaze.
'We have arrested one of the extortionists, Arjun Das. We are looking for the others,' said North 24-Parganas superintendent of police Praveen Kumar.
A large contingent of police personnel and Rapid Action Force (RAF) jawans were sent to the locality, Pannajhil, to disperse the mob.
It was, however, a group of residents that poured water to douse the fire on the streets.
Extortion is big business in North and South 24-Parganas, two districts that are witnessing a real estate boom primarily because of the need to cater to Calcutta's spill-over population.
Last evening's incident at Pannajhil brings back memories of the murder of another medicine shop owner three years ago in the same district.
Moments after the owner of the medicine shop on S.K. Deb Road in Lake Town had opened his shop on its first day ' Akshay Tritiya, 2002 ' a gang landed up and demanded money. They shot him dead when he refused to pay up.
A police officer who did not want to be named said: 'All major promoters in the urban pockets of North 24-Parganas provide shelter to anti-social elements for their own gain. As a result, crimes like extortion are rampant. However, most extortion cases go unreported and very few extortionists get arrested.'
Haraprasad Gupta was closing his shop around eight last night when the gang of five approached him.
The police said when Gupta initially refused to oblige, the goons abused him. After that they began to punch him.
'They used their fists at first. Then, two of them picked up bamboo sticks from the roadside and started beating him up. Gupta, screaming for help, started vomiting. The extortionists also rained blows on his abdomen and Gupta became unconscious'. We came to his aid, but the miscreants had fled by then,' said a grocer whose shop is located close by.
Fellow shopkeepers took Gupta to a nursing home.
From the nursing home, he was shifted to NRS Medical College Hospital, where he died around 1.30 am, a Barasat police station officer said.
Gupta's son Atanu has lodged an FIR.
He had named his shop Atanu Medical after his son, who helped him in running it.
Atanu, 34, was at home with his mother when his father was killed last night.
'Arjun, the extortionist in custody, informed the police about the others during interrogation. We have alerted the neighbouring districts,' a po- lice officer said.