A Trinamul rural leader and six party workers have been arrested between Wednesday and Friday for the alleged lynching of a 13-year-old tribal boy of the Lodha Shabar community on Tuesday night over alleged theft at a village in West Midnapore’s Sabang.
A Borochahara villager said Subha Nayek, an orphan, was accused of stealing a utensil valued at Rs 500 from a neighbour’s home.
A shalishi court, set up reportedly by local Trinamul leaders on Tuesday night, convicted the teenager of theft and ordered he be tonsured and beaten up.
Sources said he was taken to a salon at Borochahara bus stand where he was tonsured, tied to a tree and brutally beaten up. Later, Subha was dumped at his home where he was found dead on Wednesday morning.
After the incident came to light on Wednesday, Subha’s elder brother Parameshwar, 29, lodged a complaint of murder against eight Trinamul leaders and supporters at Sabang police station.
“Based on Parameshwar Nayek’s complaint, a case of murder was registered against Trinamul panchayat member Manoranjan Mal and seven other suspects. The police have so far arrested seven accused persons, including Manoranjan. Further investigation and searches for one more person are on,” a police officer of Sabang police station said, adding that Manoranjan was arrested on Wednesday.
The son of a migrant labourer belonging to the Lodha Shabar community, which has been listed among the 75 recognised vulnerable communities by the Centre, Subha used to live alone at Borochahara village.
His parents had died long ago and his elder brother Parameshwar used to reside at his in-laws’ place at Narayangarh.
Speaking about the death of his brother, an inconsolable Parameshwar on Saturday said: “The villagers told me that he was mercilessly beaten by Trinamul leader Manoranjan Mal and his aides. When he fell unconscious after the brutal torture, he was dumped at his home. He writhed in excruciating pain throughout the night and then succumbed to injuries.”
The boy could have died in the early hours of Wednesday, sources said.
Describing the chain of events, a villager told The Telegraph that after the utensil from the went missing on Tuesday, the needle of suspicion pointed to Subha because similar charges had been levelled against him in the past.
After members of the shalishi sabha on Tuesday night ordered he be tonsured and beaten up, local Trinamul workers allegedly decided to take matters into their own hands and “teach the boy a lesson”.
Manoranjan allegedly led ruling party members in beating up Subha. They did not respond to his repeated screams for mercy, the villager said.
The brutal death has sparked off a furore across Bengal, with Trinamul’s rivals questioning the ruling party’s claim of protecting the tribals.
CPM state secretary Md Salim in a Facebook post on Friday slammed the Trinamul for perpetrating atrocities on tribals.
On his official Facebook page, Salim wrote: “Trinamul panchayat member and his aides have lynched a 13-year-old minor in Sabang. This incident... puts to shame the state of Yogi (Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh)... on the allegation of theft the boy was tonsured, tied to a tree and violently brutalised.... The Trinamul has been stealing crores in the name of 100 days’ work... but Trinamul leaders did not hesitate to kill a child on the allegation of theft... to control people’s anger the police have arrested Trinamul panchayat member Manoranjan Mal....”
Supporters of Trinamul leader Manoranjan, however, refuted the allegations of torture. They claimed that the boy had consumed pesticide to kill himself.
However, as the incident involves the alleged lynching of a child belonging to the marginalised Lodha Shabar community, the district Trinamul leadership appeared to be on the defensive.
Speaking to The Telegraph about the alleged involvement of Manoranjan in the alleged thrashing that led to Subha’s death, the president of Trinamul’s West Midnapore district unit, Ashish Hudait, said: “The law shall take its course. The culprits will be punished, irrespective of their political identity.”