The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Puja sharks kill youth

Calcutta, Oct. 21: Forcible collection of puja subscription — a euphemism for extortion that rears its head in the festival season — claimed a young life in the city on Diwali.

Twenty-year-old Bikram Jha, who lived in Kidderpore, succumbed to injury today —three days after being beaten up by members of a puja committee.

Jha, an agent of a multinational bank, was attacked even though a premonition had prompted him to file a police complaint. Some members of the committee were picked up by the police, only to be released the following day — apparently because of political intervention. The assault took place the next day.

The organisers had gone to Jha’s house in Karl Marx Sarani on October 16. “Three members of a club entered our house and demanded an amount for this year’s subscription which we could not afford to pay,” Jha’s cousin Akhilesh Mishra told the police. “When we refused, they started using abusive language. Then my brother drove them out.”

Fearing harassment, Jha lodged a general diary with South Port police station. “Police even picked them (the club members) up. But we were surprised to see them roaming in the locality the next day. We heard that a local political leader intervened,” Mishra said.

Two youths, identified as Raja Prasad and Pankaj Gupta, returned to Jha’s house around 8.30 pm on October 18. They called the victim out and pounced on him.

“They punched him with iron clasps wrapped around their fists. They hit him on the forehead several times and fled as he slumped to the ground,” said a police officer.

A surgery could not save Jha. “He was declared dead this morning,” Mishra said. Prasad and Gupta have been arrested.

Late last night, members of another puja committee ransacked a businessman’s house and hit him with a bhojali for refusing to pay Rs 5,000.

The attack on Sandip Shaw, whose house is located in Banamali Sarkar Lane in Shyampukur near Burrabazar, took place at 12.10 am. Three persons have been arrested.

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