BOY BEATEN, LOCKED IN  

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By BY DEBASISH CHATTOPADHYAY in Calcutta
  • Published 27.10.00
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Calcutta, Oct.27 :    Calcutta, Oct.27:  A seven-year-old boy in Behala was rescued by neighbours late on Thursday night after being locked in a small, dingy room for around six hours by his employers, out enjoying their Diwali. The police arrested Lakshmi Mohan Kota, his wife Pramila, and daughter Madhuri from their J.K. Pal Road residence. They were charged under the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act for torturing the boy, Ganesh. All three accused (no charges were levelled against the minor son of the Kotas) were granted bail by a special vacation bench of Alipore court on Friday. The court, however, sent Ganesh to Dhruba Ashram, a rescue home for orphans. This incident comes close on the heels of 10-year-old Mou being rescued by the police from a New Alipore flat after she had been locked inside without food or water by her employers, who were off on a Puja vacation. "On Thursday, after 11 pm, we heard cries from the locked house," said Sunil Halder, a neighbour of the Kotas. "We peeped in and found the boy standing in the tiny room, begging for water. We could not understand what he was saying, as he was speaking in Telugu." But realising that the boy was in trouble, the neighbours decided to break into the flat. "After we rescued Ganesh, he said that his employers had left at around 6 pm, after locking him in the narrow room," Halder added. Lakshmi Mohan Kota had come to Calcutta from Hyderabad with his family three years ago. Ganesh, an orphan, accompanied them. His mother, who worked as a maid in the Kota household in Hyderabad, died when Ganesh was just a year old. On Friday, the boy broke his silence: "They always used to beat me. Sometimes, it was with a lathi and sometimes with hot tongs. They even dashed my head against the wall. When I would weep and beg them to stop, they would kick me around. They never gave me proper food and threatened to kill me if I told this to anyone." Sangita Pramanik, a neighbour, said: "Ganesh was regularly tortured by his employers. They didn't allow him to eat. And they would tie him up in the bathroom for even minor mistakes." On Friday, the officer-in-charge of Behala police station, Subir Chatterjee, confirmed that marks of injuries and burns were found almost all over the boy's body. He was also found to be suffering from malnutrition. "The boy narrated his ordeal, with the help of a Telugu interpreter. According to him, he was constantly ill-treated by his employers," said Chatterjee. Pramila Kota, however, blamed it all on the neighbours. She alleged that they were being persecuted by members of the local club, Palli Asar Sporting Club, for having refused to pay up Rs 5,000 as Kali Puja subscription. "The whole incident is aimed at maligning us. But one day, the truth will come out," she said. A member of the club, Swapan Pramanik, retorted: "The allegation is entirely baseless. We never demanded such a heavy amount from them. They have always behaved in a peculiar manner. And everyone here knows how they treat the boy. We knew that Ganesh was being tortured by the Kotas, but we couldn't take any action as we had no real proof." But on Thursday, after Ganesh was rescued, the angry locals waited for the Kotas to return home. When they got back, they were gheraoed by a mob demanding that they leave the locality.