Malda, Nov. 5: A ration dealer has claimed that his 92-year-old mother died of shock last night after a mob laid siege to the house and looted his godown.
Police, however, said she died of old age.
The crowd of over 400 people had not only raided the house of Hossain Ali at Bahadurpur village, 27km from here, but also slapped a fine of Rs 30 lakh on him on charges of “cheating his customers over the years”.
Ali has filed an FIR against eight persons. One of them, Noimuddin Sheikh, has been arrested. The others are missing.
According to the police, the villagers had first demanded Rs 74 lakh — Rs 2,000 against each of the 3,700 ration cardholders that Ali is supposed to cater to. Later, they agreed to accept Rs 30 lakh as “compensation to the deprived”. The villagers also looted Ali’s godown.
As news reached the Kaliachak police station at 12 noon, four hours after the gherao started, a police force arrived and rescued Ali.
“They also used loudspeakers to voice their protests which continued for more than four hours. My mother could not take the tension of it all — the siege, sloganeering, confinement and finally the fine. I have lodged specific complaints with the police against eight villagers,” said Ali.
District superintendent of police Dilip Mondal confirmed that Ali’s mother Moleman Bewa, 92, died yesterday, but added that death was because of old age.
The Malda police chief, however, expressed concern over the raids on houses of ration dealers.
“Almost everyday, reports of such sieges are coming to the district headquarters. We have asked all the police stations to remain vigilant and take prompt action,” said Mondal.
Yesterday, the house of Bharati Saha, a ration dealer at Jalalpur in the Kalichak police station area, was raided and her shop looted.
Two more ration dealers at Shershahi, under the same police station, suffered the same fate today. Similar reports also arrived from Maharajpur village under the Ratua police station this afternoon.
District magistrate Chittaranjan Das said security would be provided to ration dealers if they appealed for it. At the same time, the administration would take action against the corrupt ones.
“We cannot allow the villagers to take law into their own hands. This is a bad trend and will adversely affect the public distribution system in the district,” Das said.
According to the district magistrate, 20 ration dealers have been suspended so far in Malda on charges of corrupt practices.