A senior police officer on Saturday acknowledged that police firing had killed Mrityunjoy Barman, a 33-year-old man slain during a raid on a village in Kaliaganj, North Dinajpur, in the early hours of Thursday.
But the senior officer, who asked not to be identified, said the policeman who shot Mrityunjoy had collapsed under merciless beating by a mob when, fearing for his life, he “fired in the air” while lying on the ground.
So far, the family of Mrityunjoy has been alleging that he died in police firing but the force has neither admitted nor denied it officially.
“Yes, he died in police firing,” the senior officer said, adding that an inquiry had been initiated against the policeman who fired.
The incident happened hours after a mob of over 2,000 people, protesting the alleged rape and murder of a minor girl last week, attacked Kaliaganj police station on Wednesday and set it on fire. The mob chased a group of policemen to a nearby house and thrashed them.
Mrityunjoy Barman. The Telegraph
The police began searches across Kaliaganj on Wednesday night to arrest suspected rioters, the source said.
“A police team went to the house of Bishnu Barman in Chandga village under Radhikapur gram panchayat around 2am on Thursday,” the officer said. “Barman’s relatives and neighbours confronted the police outside the house.”
As the police kept calling out for Bishnu, a man stepped out of the house and declared himself to be Bishnu, the officer said. He was taken to Kaliaganj police station.
“As the formalities for his arrest were being completed at the police station, the man suddenly said he was not Bishnu and that Bishnu was his son,” the officer said. The man was later released.
By then, as the remaining members of the police team were preparing to leave Chandga, the crowd around Bishnu’s house attacked them.
“The last policeman was trapped just a few steps from a waiting police van,” the source said, speaking on the basis of reports he had received from the district police.
Aged in his late 40s, the trapped policeman was punched, kicked and severely beaten with sticks.
“It was dark and he slumped to the ground, unable to bear the thrashing. He threw up twice while writhing in pain. The crowd refused to listen to his pleadings,” the source said.
As he lay on the ground, the policeman later told his superiors, the video grabs he had seen of a mob brutalising policemen earlier in the day flashed through his mind. He feared for his life, the source said.
“It was then that, lying on the ground, he fired two rounds in the air from his service revolver. In the darkness, his other colleagues, some of whom had boarded the police van, rushed to his rescue and they all returned to the police station,” the source said.
“It was later learnt that one man in the crowd had suffered a bullet injury. It was Mrityunjoy. He later died.”
He added: “No one wants to open fire on duty and invite a series of inquiries. But the context in which Thursday’s firing happened cannot be ignored.”
On Friday, Dipanjan Das, the inspector-in-charge of Kaliaganj police station, was transferred to the Government Railway Police in Siliguri and replaced by Subal Chandra Ghosh from the GRP.