Tripura: Uproar in Assembly as CM’s statement terms custodial death ‘suicide’; Opposition MLAs walk out

Debraj Deb
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In a press conference, Opposition leader Manik Sarkar criticised the Deputy Speaker, saying he was "insulting" the chair. (File)

CPI (M) legislators Monday walked out of the Tripura Assembly, accusing Deputy Speaker Biswabandhu Sen of "trying to silence them". The Opposition MLAs had been protesting a statement of Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, which termed the custodial death of a 39-year-old a ‘suicide’, even as an inquiry into the issue is on.

Sushanta Ghosh, a confectioner from Lankamura, a bordering village of West Tripura, was found hanging on January 12 at West Agartala Police Station. Two days before that, he had been arrested by the cybercrime cell of Tripura Police in connection with an ATM fraud racket.

In his reply to a Calling Attention Notice on the custodial death and the suspension of two police officers moved by MLAs Ratan Bhowmik and Nirmal Biswas, Deb, who also holds the Home portfolio, issued a statement that termed the death a suicide.

“Following arrest, he was produced before the CJM Court, West Tripura on January 11, 2020. The Hon’ble court ordered to keep him in police custody for two days for interrogation purposes... The IO was supposed to produce him again before the court on January 13, 2020 as per instruction of the court. The IO took the accused out of lock-up at 6:23 PM on January 11, 2020 and returned him there at 12:24 AM on January 12 after interrogation. The police station’s sentry went to see the accused in lock-up at 5:01 AM in the dawn of January 12, 2020 and Sushanta Ghosh was found to have committed suicide inside the lock-up lavatory, i.e, he was found hanging…”, the CM’s statement reads.

Raising objections, Opposition MLAs demanded how the death could be called a ‘suicide’ when a magisterial inquiry into it ordered by the CM himself was in progress.

Meanwhile, BJP MLA Sudip Roy Burman said that an ongoing magisterial inquiry should not be discussed on the floor of the House.

The Opposition benches claimed Deputy Speaker Sen tried to "silence their voice by force" as he declined to grant them supplementary questions on the subject, on the last day of the ongoing session.

Later in a press conference, Opposition leader Manik Sarkar criticised the Deputy Speaker, saying he was "insulting" the chair.

On the alleged custodial death, Sarkar said, "We have doubts about how it is being called a suicide even before the inquiry is completed. I have visited the deceased’s house and his relatives have categorically told us that he had said they (police) would not let him live. They also captured photographs of a part of the cloth used as the noose stuffed inside the deceased’s mouth”.

Earlier on January 13, Ghosh’s family registered an FIR at West Agartala Police Station, accusing the police of torturing and killing him.

“…I have no doubt that my son was tortured in the police lockup and he has been killed, as there was no reason for him to commit suicide. I demand a fair investigation for the punishment of the police persons involved in the death of my son," his father Parimal Ghosh said in the FIR.