Latika with her 12-year-old daughter, Shampa, in their house. Picture by Gopal Senapati
Latika Dey spends most of her time sitting on the verandah of her tiny mud house, staring vacantly at the dirt track leading away from Dakshin Gangadharpur village in Howrah.
It was the same path that her son Tarun took one-and-a-half-years ago in search of a livelihood in Rajasthan, never to return again.
The parents of the 17-year-old learnt about his death on January 22, 10 days after his body was found on a Sealdah platform.
The CID has started a probe against four Railway Protection Force men, charging them with criminal negligence leading to the youth’s death.
Tarun, who took up work in a jewellery unit in Jaipur to supplement his weaver father’s monthly income of Rs 900, was returning home when he was arrested by the RPF quartet at Sealdah station on January 12 for loitering.
Probably drugged and robbed, he was put up in the lock-up and released the next day on a personal risk bond when he complained of illness.
Since the youth was too weak to move without a helping hand, the RPF men — Bachha Acharya, Samir Sarkar, Arvind Prasad Roy and Ram Sundar Prasad — carried him to the spot from where he was arrested. Tarun was found dead at the spot there hours later.
“The day before he left Jaipur, he called me up on our neighbour’s phone and said he was feeling depressed for not being able to see us. He told me he wanted to live in the village and take up some job. That was the last I heard from him,” recalled Latika, unable to hold back tears.
Father Becharam said: “We did not want to send him to Rajasthan. But he was eager to eke out a living to ease my pressure.”
Pointing to the mud house, Becharam said: “He told me he would build a pucca house once he saved some money. We, too, started dreaming of a better life but our dreams were crashed within a month and a half of his trip to Rajasthan.”
Villager said Latika, who has a 12-year-old daughter, was yet to get over the shock. “For most part of the day, she keeps staring at the path,” said a neighbour.
Tarun told Latika that he would arrive at Sealdah station around 5pm on January 11 and asked her to send his maternal uncle Tarak Adak to the station. Tarak reached the station on time but could not find Tarun. He rushed to the GRP booth but the officers pleaded ignorance.
For the next 11 days, relatives visited the RPF and GRP offices in vain and finally lodged a missing diary on January 14.
“The cops all along lied to us. When we were finally shown the body, 10 days after he died, it was too decomposed to be identified. We identified the body seeing a police photograph,” said Becharam.