The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Young girl’s body, aflame

Singur, Dec. 18: The burning body of an 18-year-old girl in a pit inside the land fenced off for the Tata project here was found early this morning, prompting Mamata Banerjee to call a 48-hour Bengal bandh on Thursday and Friday.

Mamata said the girl, Tapasi Malik, was an activist of her Save Farmland Committee in Singur who had been “murdered” by CPM supporters guarding the fence through the night.

Raj Kanojia, inspector general of police (law and order), however, said: “There are gaps large enough in the fencing to allow outsiders to enter.”

Mamata’s 48-hour bandh — easing nicely into the weekend and Christmas — will be the fourth this month, in which the state would lose five working days.

Tapasi, the only daughter of Monoranjan Malik, a sharecropper and a fish trader, had stepped out of her small house in Bajemelia, in Gopalnagar mouza, around 4.30 am to relieve herself in the field.

Some 45 minutes later when she didn’t turn up, her mother Molina Devi went out looking and spotted a ball of fire about 350 metres away. As she rushed towards it with her sister-in-law Bandana, she discovered that it was her daughter who was in flames.

Tapasi was lying on her back with her entire torso in flames. Seeing her daughter in that state, Molina Devi became hysterical and started screaming, bringing other villagers rushing to the spot.

A huge police contingent arrived quickly in five vehicles, doused the flames and, throwing a blanket around the body, sped away to Singur police station.

Officers of the Criminal Investigation Department, given charge of the probe, have initiated a case of murder but refused to comment whether the girl was sexually assaulted. “We’ll wait for the forensic and post-mortem reports to come in before commenting,” said D.P. Tarenia, inspector general of police, CID.

Initial investigations have revealed that Tapasi was murdered some distance away, possibly strangled as her tongue was sticking out, and then dragged to the pit and set on fire.

Monoranjan said his daughter had been murdered, though he was silent on who could have done it.

“Hearing my wife’s screams, I rushed to the field to see my daughter in flames with her tongue sticking out,” Monoranjan said.

“Her slippers were lying some distance away along with a clump of hair. If this isn’t murder, then what is'”

Monoranjan said his daughter was part of the agitation by the Save Farmland Committee and was on a “protest fast” yesterday.

“Though I did not own land, I still made an income from the land as a sharecropper. With the land gone, what will we eat'”

In the evening, Tapasi’s body was brought to Calcutta for post-mortem. As the news spread, Trinamul leaders rushed there from the spot opposite Metro cinema where Mamata is fasting and demanded that Tapasi’s body be handed over to them.

Shortly, Monoranjan also reached the morgue but Trinamul leaders took him in a procession to meet Mamata. Taking this opportunity, the police took Tapasi’s body back to Singur.

Monoranjan protested to Mamata that his daughter’s body had not been handed over to him by the police.

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