THREE DAYS after an announcer hired by authorities in South Tripura to dispel rumours of child-lifters was lynched by a mob, his grief-stricken family is still struggling to cope with the fact that the 33-year-old lost his life trying to keep his family afloat — for a daily wage of Rs 500.
Sukanta Chakraborty was lynched by a mob on June 28 in the Kalachhara area after a few youths confronted the government team and said they did not know the “real” situation in the villages where “child abductors were really present”.
”This was plain murder in front of so many people. An announcer for a noble cause, hired by the authorities, was lynched to death. What can I say? He left behind his wife and a five-month-old baby boy,” says Debabrata Chakraborty, the elder brother of Sukanta, speaking to The Indian Express over phone.
Debabrata, a construction worker, says his brother’s body bore marks of grievous injuries caused by bricks, stones, sticks and even broken bottles. Four arrests have been made in the case, say police.
”He was to be paid Rs 500 for a day’s engagement as an announcer. Starting from his teenage days, he would be involved in various music programmes, either singing or playing the tabla. His voice was good, so were his announcements,” the brother says.
According to district officials, Sukanta did most of the public announcements carried out by the government in the Sabroom sub-division in the last few months. “The government should now ensure that my brother’s killers are punished, and that his wife and child get compensation for their sustenance,” says Debabrata.
On June 28, Sukanta was accompanied by a government official and the driver of the van — fitted with a loudspeaker — in which they were travelling. He was in the midst of issuing an announcement — that people should not believe in the rumours being spread on social media — at a crowded market place in Kalachhara when he was attacked.
Debabrata says he was in nearby Belonia when he got to know from his wife, Saraswati, around 4.30 pm that his brother was dead. Saraswati was staying with Sukanta and his family in Manikgarh while Debabrata mostly stayed for work in Belonia, around 40 km away. “The family wants justice… Look at us now. Sukanta’s baby does not even understand that his father is gone,” says Saraswati.
According to police and officials, the attack on Sukanta was triggered by the discovery on June 26 of the body of a 11-year-old boy in the Mohanpur area of West Tripura. Cut injuries on the body immediately led to rumours that the boy’s kidneys had been removed — a piece of false information that led to clashes between security personnel and residents, leaving at least seven policemen and some locals injured.
Although Chief Minister Biplab Deb clarified the next day that the post-mortem report showed that both the kidneys of the boy were intact, rumours still did the rounds in several parts of the state about “kidney smugglers” and “child-lifters”.
According to police and officials, rumour-mongering was at its peak in South Tripura’s Sabroom subdivision leading to a meeting at the sub-divisional level on June 28 morning.
Biplab Das, Sabroom SDM, says it was decided in the meeting that an awareness announcement must be made informing people that they should not pay heed to the rumours of kidneys being harvested. The local office of the Department of Information and Cultural Affairs (DICA) was asked to execute the decision, says Das.
”We do not have a permanent announcer here. We always hire someone when a government announcement needs to be made. Sukanta was doing almost all our announcements for the last three-four months… We used to pay him Rs 500 for one day,” says sub-divisional official of the DICA.
The government team, say police, had made two announcements before being assaulted on the third. Sukanta succumbed to his injuries while the other two survived.