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Custodial death of 27-year-old youth in West Bengal 'projected' as suicide

By Kirity Roy* 
In a grave instance of human rights violation, there was custodial death of Daud Seikh, a 27-year-old youth from village Hausnagar, Police Station Samshergunj, District Murshidabad, West Bengal.
Daud Seikh, son of Mainul Seikh, belonged to the oppressed Backward Caste of the Muslim community. Sabina Yasmin, his wife, and two children 7 and 2 years, were dependent on him. Daud Seikh was a wage labourer, did not possess any  land, and would fend for his family by all and sundry menial jobs. 
On April 7, 2024 at around 12:30 noon, he was apprehended by a sub-inspector of the Samshergunj Police Station Prashanta Ghosh and 3-4 other civic police personnel at the Patani More of Hausnagar under the Shamsergunj Police Station. 
While the arrest was made, the police party reached up to him at the place in a red coloured police vehicle with sticks and rifles. Sharif Seikh, son of Nur Seikh, a resident of Hausnagar, was witness to Daud's arrest. 
It was reported that Daud was arrested on April 7, 2024, in connection with the Shamsergunj Police Station Case No 110/24. His arrest and subsequent death on Apil 13, 2024 raises serious concerns, especially given the circumstances surrounding her demise. 
According to criminal procedure, each arrest by police should be followed by issuing memo of arrest which was not done in public view, and his family was not informed by the police about his arrest. 
It was further reported that Daud was under immense pressure from the Shamserganj police to act as an ‘informer’ but he refused the proposal. It is learned that while Daud was arrested, the involved police personnel made physical aggression and verbal abuses on him.
Daud left his home on April 7, 2024 at around 7: 00 AM, in search of a daily wage job, but did not return to his home on that day. The family members assumed that he might have got the work as a helper of a truck, which he used to do, and would have gone far-off places of other state, which was a regular phenomenon in his life. 
On April 13, at around 2:45 PM, one Firoz Seikh, a civic volunteer of the Shamserganj Police Station came to Daud’s home by a motorcycle and informed the elder brother of Daud, Lal Muhammad, and the wife of Daud, Sabina Yasmin, that Daud had committed suicide by hanging himself at the Jangipur Sub-Divisional Correctional Home, and his body was preserved at the Jangipur Sub Divisional Hospital’s mortuary. 
The civic volunteer informed the family that they have to procure a document from the Police Station to receive the body for burial and for this purpose he asked them to write down an application addressed to the police station. 
The civic volunteer then rushed for the police station and reached there before the family members, and with all swiftness, arranged the document and handed over it to the family members at Garuhata, a place adjoining the police station.
The father of the deceased, the widow and others reached the hospital, and while enquiring about the cause of death, the attending doctor informed them that there was a mark in front of the neck but not at the back of the neck, and it was an unnatural death. Another doctor said that the deceased was brought to hospital as dead, not alive. 
The family had no knowledge about the person who made an inquest over the body. The post mortem examination was done at the hospital, and the body was handed over to the family. 
NHRC intervention is crucial for upholding justice, protecting human rights, and ensuring that such incidents do not go unnoticed or unaddressed
The family members found many black bruise marks all over the body. The family members -- the widow and the father of the deceased -- suspected foul play and made an opinion that Daud was tortured to death, first in the police station and then in judicial custody. The family was in complete dark about his whereabouts from April 7, 2024 to April 13, 2024.
On April 15, 2024, the widow went to the Samsherganj Police Station to submit a complaint but the attending police officials Sumanta Kumar Das and Santosh Haldar,  Assistant Sub Inspectors, refused to accept and register her complaint. Thereafter she submitted the complaint to the office of the Superintendent of Police, Jangipur Police District. 
The family of the deceased, particularly his widow and other family members, is distressed, seeking justice for the untimely demise of Daud Seikh. It is necessitated that a thorough a judicial inquiry be conducted into the circumstances leading to his arrest, his long detention without informing the family members, and his unnatural death, and those responsible for any wrongdoing must be held accountable.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should initiate immediate and impartial judicial inquiry into the custodial death of Daud Seikh under section 176 (1) A of CrPC. Further, the family and witnesses must be protected from threats and allurements, and the family with two minor children must be provided with financial compensations. Also, there should be investigation, as suggested by the Istanbul Declaration and the Minnesota Declaration.
The NHRC intervention is crucial for upholding justice, protecting human rights, and ensuring that such incidents do not go unnoticed or unaddressed. As the arresting procedure was not followed and the written complaint of the widow was not registered, the version of the Samsherganj police cannot be trusted. The NHRC should take prompt action to investigate this matter thoroughly and provide justice to the aggrieved family.
---
*Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha; National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity. Based on author's representation to NHRC chairperson 

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