A 17-year-old student was found dead in his school hostel in West Bengal's Birbhum district on Friday, 22 April, only a week after the hostel was reopened for students. His father has alleged foul play and sought an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
He was a class 12 student of Patha Bhavana, a residential primary and secondary school in Shantiniketan which comes under the Visva-Bharati University.
His father alleged that the university was trying to suppress facts pertaining to his death. The teenager was taken to Pearson Memorial Hospital, where he was declared dead, and his body was then moved to Bolpur Mahakuma Hospital for a post-mortem examination.
The student hailed from Bonogram in Birbhum's Nanur. His brother said, "there was a lot of ragging in his school and seniors would extort money for cigarettes and alcohol. My brother did not smoke or drink, so he must have refused to pay the money. This has happened in the past as well."
Family Claims Foul Play
The father claimed that his son's death, which is being made to look like a suicide, was, in fact, a murder. He filed a complaint at the Shantiniketan police station.
"My son's body was removed from the crime scene and taken to the hospital without informing the police. I was not informed either."The boy's father to the media
The 17-year-old's body had several wounds when it was found. But the cause of death has not been ascertained yet, since the post-mortem report is awaited.
While speaking to the media, he reiterated that he was seeking a CBI probe into his son's death. Meanwhile, the university authorities launched an inquiry into the same.
The boy's brother told The Quint, "My father got a call only when they were taking the body for the postmortem. Even then, we were told that he was sick and was being taken to the hospital. We went to the hospital to find that he was dead."
Besides a mark on his neck, there were punch marks on his face and a loose tooth. We do not know who took him to Pearson Memorial. Even the death cerificate was issued without informing us.The boy' brother
Viswa-Bharati Vice-Chancellor Bidyut Chakraborty told The Indian Express, "This is a tragic incident, and we fully sympathise with the family. The university has extended all help to the family. We are also trying to find out how the student died."
The chancellor told journalists that he was open to a CBI inquiry. Following the protests, he reached out to the police seeking support.
"If the parents of the boy demand an investigation by the CBI or the CID, we don't have any reservations. A young boy died, and we don' know what went on in his mind in the last minutes. He is our child. I am with his family and my sympathies are with them."Bidyut Chakraborty to PTI
"He was a Good Student, Loved Cricket & Football"
In his brother's words, the 17-year-old was a good student and was always helping others. His brother was baffled at his mysterious death, saying that he was peace-loving and never got into a fight.
The brother said, "he had joined the school in Class 2. He used to cry a lot as he would get homesick but that got better eventually. He mostly stood first or second in class."
An animal lover, he was often spotted with stray dogs. His brother recalled the last time he visited the village: "He loved football and cricket. He bought a football for his friends in the villages when he visited last. He promised them that he would play football the next time he visited."
The Chronology of Events
Local sources said that the teenager had returned to the campus hostel after it reopened for students a week ago. The hostel was shut down due to the COVID pandemic.
According to the students, the boy did not accompany his friends and roommates to the prayer at 7 am and decided to stay back on 21 April. His friends got worried when he didn't show up for class either. When they returned to the room to search for him, they found him lying motionless.
The hostel warden and authorities, including V-C Chakraborty, were alerted immediately and they retrieved the body and took him to the Pearson Memorial hospital, where he was declared dead.
Before his body was taken to Bolpur Mahakuma Hospital for a post-mortem exam, his family and relatives protested, alleging foul play. After police intervention, the body was allowed to be taken and an FIR was filed.
Chakraborty told the media that he could not meet the family of the victim because the situation was tense.
"They (parents) were accompanied by protesters wielding bamboo poles. It was not advisable to meet the parents in such a circumstance."Bidyut Chakraborty to PTI
His death has sparked protests by his family and a few student organisations, including the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) and the Students' Federation of India (SFI).
That very night, student activists protested outside the V-C's residence over the student's death. The protests continued till Saturday, during which protesters broke the entrance gate and tried to barge in. The police detained some of the protesters, who were all released eventually.
On the same day, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar shared a message sent by the Vishwa Bharati Vice Chancellor, Bidyut Chakraborty.
Bidyut's message read: "Kindly send security. My life is at risk. The agitators have broken the main gate and an untoward incident is likely to happen if you don't send police protection for me. It is an SOS."
While the protests have been called off, there's still a heavy police presence on the campus as tension prevails.
BJP national secretary and Vishwa Bharati University graduate Anupam Hazra hit out at Chakraborty during a TV debate alleging that he should have at least met the parents.
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)