Crime & Punishment

On the night of 15 November a young man, formerly an artisan by occupation, but later driven to mental disorder and given to roaming about here and there, was mercilessly beaten to death by students of the Nilratan Sarkar Medical College on the mere suspicion of stealing a mobile phone. Nobody checked whether the fellow really stole the phone. Next morning, the body of the victim was recovered from the fourth floor of the hostel. It transpired that his name was Sheikh Korpan. He was a married person with three children.

The way the Principal of the college proceeded in dealing with the matter—she displayed an ugly and dehumanizing reluctance even in getting the names and addresses of the students or procuring eyewitnesses—suggested that she was more willing to save the killers than to bring justice to the family of the deceased. The report given by her to the government after much dilly-dallying has not even touched the issue of killing, let alone trying to identify the culprits. The police also showed the same reluctance until vociferous protests forced them to act, albeit slowly. A well-known politician of the ruling Trinamul Congress, himself a physician, brazenly remarked that nobody had witnessed the incident. He probably tried to suggest that the murder took place in a desolate heath, not in a hostel in which there are hundreds of boarders. It is obvious that he is concerned with saving the guilty, and that is why he resorted to this obvious mendacity. Now the ruling party's spokesmen are urging that innocent students should not be harassed. Any sane person would suggest that it was the duty of the innocent to come out openly and see that justice be done.

When the miscreants were beating the suspected thief to death, they ostensibly were not afraid of any punishment. In such cases, even the minimum legal punishment is sufficient to ruin the career of a would-be doctor,, and that the killers obviously were not philanthropists, but careerists par se. Yet they were not afraid. In this regard, a leading Bengali daily, which is the largest circulating daily of the country, has commented in an editorial that the guilty students were not afraid of any punishment, because they knew that the umbrella of the ruling TMC would enable them to get away with impunity. Although many people, including this commentator, do not agree with the general orientation of the daily, there is no reason to disagree with this particular editorial. The latest news is that one eyewitness, a construction worker doing duty at the hostel building when the ghastly incident took place, is missing. It may be surmised that he has been forced to take to flight.

Finally, the thousands of students who took to the street in protest against the police atrocity in Jadavpur University campus have in general kept aloof, although there are exceptions. Is it because the killed is not a university student, but belongs to a depressed and poor category? Elitism in students' movement is harmful to the society at large.

CPM in its 3-decade-old rule established the worst form of partisan dictatorship in Bengal all in the name of democracy. And Bengal today is equally terrorised by partisan terror—this time by the Trinamul Congress. The civic society seems to have forgotten to react despite gross violation of human rights. Rights bodies look helpless while intellectuals and democrats have stopped talking about justice and injustice.

Vol. 47, No. 22, Dec 7 - 13, 2014