Bengal: 4 undertrials die in 10 days, kin allege torture in jail

WHEN JIAUL Naskar (40) talked to his wife Mahrufa Bibi on phone from the Baruipur Central Correctional Home in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district on July 28, he told her that he would call her the next day.

But she got no call from her husband for the next five days till she was informed by the jail authorities on August 2 that Jiaul had died the previous night. And Jiaul’s is not just the only such case.

In less than 10 days, three more undertrials — Abdul Rajjak Dewan of Kurali, Akbar Khan alias Khokan Khan of Fakir Para and Saidul Munshi of Santoshpur from the district — died in judicial custody at the Baruipur Central Correctional Home (jail). The four men were picked up by police in separate cases on charges of preparing to commit dacoity in the last week of July. Their families have alleged custodial torture, raising doubt over the stated cause of their death.

Mahrufa Bibi (35) has not been able to come to terms with the claim that her husband met with natural death.

Speaking to The Indian Express at her home in Ghutiari Sharif, Mahrufa alleged, “My husband told me that he was beaten mercilessly at the police station and in the jail. His body was full of injury marks. Therefore, we demand a fair inquiry and the culprits should be identified soon.”

After Jiaul’s family filed a complaint alleging foul play, South 24 Parganas District Magistrate Sumit Gupta gave Rs 5 lakh compensation each to the families and assured a government job besides a probe by the CID into the allegations.

Mahrufa said, “We were informed that CM Mamata Banerjee talked to the DM and instructed him to give us the compensation besides ordering a CID inquiry. We are happy that she stood with us.” The family, however, is in no mood to withdraw the FIR against jail administration.

Baruipur police station in-charge Soumyadip Roy said, “Since the matter is sub judice, we can not say anything. All I can say is that they were arrested on the allegations of preparing for dacoity. When they were sent to jail, they were fit. We have medical reports of their fitness.”

Sohana Bibi, wife of Abdul Rajjak Dewan, a resident of Kurali village in the district, said he used to work in Jharkhand and Bihar. “He sold chick mats there. He came home for a few days. He was to leave for work in a week. On July 25 evening, the cops took him to the police station. He was fine till he was sent to jail the next day. The same day, he called me and asked to transfer Rs 2,000 to a number via an app. I went to the jail the next day to give him food. But on July 30, police informed us that he was not well. When we went to the police station we were told that he died in hospital.”

An official of the state correctional administration department said they have ordered a magisterial inquiry in the matter. “It is the standard protocol. A departmental probe has ruled out foul play in this.” DM Gupta did not respond to phone calls and text messages.

Jail Minister Akhil Giri said, “We already ordered a magisterial inquiry as per rules. If any foul play comes out in the investigation, we will take stern action against the culprits.”