Durgapur, April 20: The boy handed over a bag of vegetables and stretched his palm out for the money. A butcher’s knife came down on him seconds later and it kept coming down until the spasms stopped and the blood-soaked body lay on the beans and gourds.
The traders of Jambad bazaar in Andal never asked for money from Manju Bhuniya, but 12-year-old Pankaj Barnawal, who was standing in for his brother, did not recognise the dreaded extortionist.
The boy dead, Manju dropped the knife, picked up his bag and started walking away, secure in the belief that no one will dare chase him.
But the people had had enough. He was caught and hacked to death with the same knife that he used.
Manju had been released on bail last week and was immediately back in business in Andal, 220 km from Calcutta.
Pintu Mukherjee, the officer-in-charge of Andal police station, said Manju was arrested a fortnight ago on charges of smuggling coal.
He compared this morning’s events with a Hindi film sequence. “It was just like in a movie, where a muscleman goes around market places to collect hafta (money) from traders and everyone obliges him out of fear. I haven’t come across an incident like this in a decade and a half of service.”
Mukherjee did not say whether the police had also been like their reel portrayal — dozing.
An officer said a stronger case of extortion could not be built against Manju in the absence of complaints. “We knew that Manju had resumed extortion. But we were handicapped as there were no specific complaints.”
A case has been started against unknown persons for Manju’s murder, the OC said.
At six this morning, Pankaj arrived with vegetables piled on a cycle van. He emptied them on a jute sheet and started business. Elder brother Sudhir, who runs the stall, had fever today. “My brother had not seen Manju before. He sought Rs 40 for the vegetables like he did from other customers when Manju was about to walk away.”
Subir Pal, who was among the shoppers, said Manju appeared stunned when the boy talked back at him. “Pankaj told Manju that he would have to pay as he had to submit accounts of the day’s sales to his brother. Manju tried to walk away with the bag but Pankaj held on to it.”
Manju ran to the meat shop and returned with the chopper. “Pankaj tried to run away, but Manju caught him and hacked at him repeatedly,” Pal added.
Manju waved the chopper, threatening every one around with dire consequences if they called the police.
“But some of the traders chased Manju. He was caught and dragged to where Pankaj was lying,” said another shopper, Raju Jha.