West Bengal: 13-year-old from Lodha Shabar Tribe ‘Lynched’ for Food Theft; Panchayat Member Arrested
Kolkata: A 13-year-old child from the Lodha Shabar community was allegedly lynched by a TMC Panchayat member, Manoranjan Mal, and a group led by him, who reportedly had accused the child of stealing food.
The victim was a resident of Borochara village in Sabang and belonged to the endangered Lodha Shabar Tribal community. He reportedly "stole food due to hunger".
The Shabars were considered a criminal tribe during British rule. The Act criminalising the tribe has been scrapped; however, the community continues to face ostracization.
After the news of the incident spread, hundreds of locals blocked a local state highway and demanded an exemplary punishment for the perpetrators. The brother of the victim, Parameshwar Nayek, has filed a complaint at the Sabang police station, reporting Subha Nayek’s lynching. The father of the victims is a migrant labourer and works in a different state, according to locals.
The incident occurred when the local TMC panchayat member accused the child of theft on Wednesday evening. After apprehending him, the group led by him allegedly took him to a salon, shaved his head, and tortured him through the night by tying him to a tree. His lifeless body was found on a village road on Thursday morning. Police have arrested seven individuals, including Manoranjan Mal, as public outrage intensified.
The victim, Subha Nayek, reportedly lived in a 9-foot by 11-foot windowless room constructed under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. It has also been alleged that the Panchayat member coveted the room and wanted to establish “a club for controlling the hooch trade”.
According to locals, the child was also made to participate in a Kangaroo court, where he was accused of stealing a cooking utensil and a spade apart from food. The 13-year-old was “coerced into confessing the crimes” and his mother was reportedly asked to transfer the Awas Yojana room to the Panchayat member.
On the other hand, some locals have claimed that the child consumed poison. The victim’s father, Batash Nayek, however, has rebuffed this claim and accused the local party members of spreading false information.
Paschim Banga Adivasi Adhikar Raksha Manch has condemned the “brutal lynching” and sought exemplary punishment for the culprits.
The Shabartollahs, small hamlets where Shabars reside, are located outside villages due to a history of discrimination and ostracization. Only 11 Shabars have obtained pattas under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
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