Krishnagar, Dec. 30: A man who refused to pay Rs 551 as subscription for Nachiketa Night on New Year's Day was slapped and hit on the head as punishment yesterday.
Sanatan Sarkar, 36, died around midnight.
A commerce graduate and a truck driver by profession, he was the only earning member of his family ' compri- sing a six-year-old daughter, wife and parents ' in a Nadia neighbourhood.
At least 15 members of Bedibhavan Club stopped Sanatan's truck at Gayeshpur ' near Kalyani, about 50 km from Calcutta ' yesterday.
On his way to Panskura in West Midnapore with vegetables, he did not have the money that truckers often carry to keep hooligans happy during the festival season. Sanatan, who earned about Rs 3,000 a month, offered Rs 51.
The paltry sum was an insult to the club that had mounted the gala. 'We are getting Nachiketa and many more artistes from Calcutta to perform. How dare you say you will not pay' the youths screamed at him. 'You will not be allowed to move an inch unless you pay Rs 551,' they warned.
An officer of Kalyani police station said Sanatan repeatedly requested the youths to accept Rs 51. When he failed to persuade them, he started his engine and the youths jumped onto the truck. As he went forward a few yards, some of them broke open the door to the driver's cabin and started assaulting him.
'One of the attackers hit him on the head with a brick.'
The driver of another truck saw Sanatan groaning in pain and took him to a hospital in Kalyani, where he recounted his horror. He was later shifted to NRS Hospital in Calcutta and then to SSKM, where he died last night.
Nadia police chief R. Rajsekharan called it 'one of the worst incidents of forced subscription collection'. Till late tonight, 'four-five youths' had been detained and patrol on roads heightened to the pre-puja level.
At Badkulla in Hanskhali, some 25 km from where Sana-tan was fatally wounded, the Sarkars are staring at a dark New Year and a bleak future.