By Mirza Mosaraf Hossain, TwoCircles.net
The death of a woman from an industrialist family in West Bengal’s Raniganj town has raised several doubts over the action of the police after it refused to register a case of murder and instead booked the incident as a suicide.
On October 5, Pushpa Bhalotia, a 39-year-old housewife of a renowned industrialist family residing in West Burdwan’s Raniganj block was found burnt in her in-law’s house on October 5 of this year. When she was brought to a private hospital in Durgapur, the doctors declared her dead. However, the post-mortem report turned the case upside down and added enough doubts over the theory that this was a case of suicide. The doctors conducting the post-mortem found a bullet in her head and half of her body burnt.
However, the family of her in-laws stuck to the story that this was a case of suicide. But what is more worrying is that despite the revelations made in the post-mortem report, the local police refused to register any F.IR or any Suo Moto action, even when one of Pushpa’s brothers approached to file a murder case against the in-laws family on October 6 on the ground that it was a suicide. The family of Pushpa alleged that her husband Manoj Bhalotia was having an extramarital affair with the niece of Om Prakash Bajoria, the President of Raniganj Chamber of Commerce. They accused Bajoria of using his political influence to quash the evidence to protect the prime suspects and conspirators of this murder. What makes the suicide story even more difficult to believe is that all the people who are said to be behind the ghastly death have fled their residences.
On October 14, an RTI activist, Mustaquim Siddiqui from Jharkhand, the national convener of Insaaf India, a non-political organization filed an RTI under section 7(1) ‘whereas the information concerning the life and liberty of person shall be provided within 48 hours’ to the Public Information Officer, Asansol Durgapur Commissionerate seeking investigation details of the case. However, the said authority refused to respond. The same thing happened at the First Appellate Authority which remained silent over the same concern when on October 30, the RTI activist approached them. The First Appellate Authority also refused to provide a valid reason for denying information in the case.
Only on November 6, 2017, a month after the murder, an FIR was lodged on behalf of Gopal Agarwal, one of the brothers of Pushpa, after social activists started raising voices against the injustice. In his FIR, Gopal named Manoj Bhatolia, the husband, Rajesh Bhalotia, Manoj’s cousin and Sabita Bhalotia, Rajesh’s wife in the FIR. But after the FIR, the family of Gopal has been receiving constant threats with dire consequences to withdrawing the case. Gopal’s family also alleged that despite filing an FIR, the police are yet to start an investigation into the matter.
Pushpa Bhalotia, the daughter of Banwary Lal Agarwal, originally from Jharkhand’s Bokaro district, was married to Manoj Bhalotia of Ranjganj in West Bengal in 1995. She has two children who are now pursuing their studies in Australia. “Ever since their marriage, the couple would have issues and fight over petty things. There were times when we sent Pushpa back to her in-law’s house after convincing her that all would we well. But we never thought something like this would happen,” said Brahmanand Agarwal, one of her brothers.
When the family saw the inaction of the West Bengal police over the murder, the family members along with some social organisations, Students’ union, Women activists, human rights activists, journalists, and advocates, arranged a Press Conference in Kolkata on November 23. All the participants who spoke sought a proper investigation. RTI activist Siddiqui has already forwarded a mail to the Home Ministry requesting for recommendation of CBI investigation and the copies of the same were sent to twelve more places including the West Bengal Commission for Women, Chief Minister of West Bengal. The Registrar of the Supreme Court of India and the Prime Minister and the President of India.
Mustaquim Siddiqui, who has been working on the case for more than 50 days, said “The case has been fabricated by the police. If she tried to kill herself, she would have done so by a gunshot or by burning. How can one kill himself/herself with gunshot and fire at the same time?” He added, “The post-mortem report also said the bullet was not from a licensed gun. This also raises the question where she would get a smuggled gun to kill herself.” He also told to TwoCircles.net that the case has now turned to prove who is mightier as the two families belong to wealthy industrialist Marwari families.
When Brahmanand Agarwal, the brother of the victim, was asked why they are considering the death as a murder case, he said, “ if the accused are not the culprits, then they should not have run away from their homes after October 5. Till now we are getting threats to withdraw the case from unknown numbers, who seemed to be from the accused family.” He added they are hopeful the police will conduct a thorough investigation and ensure justice to his sister.