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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sorry Pritam, You did not deserve to die so young!

Pritam Bhattacharjee, a
Silchar boy, who was
killed in Bihar.
Source: Facebook Profile
It's a "story" that is 6 days old now. Yet, the brutality and the mindless nature of the crime that took away the life of a budding PhD scholar, leaves a lot to be answered. The murder has again shown, very clearly, that Bihar remains in a state of perpetual lawlessness. That, despite all the tall claims by Nitish Kumar and his governmental colleagues, there are no effective mechanism for ensuring protection for the common man in Bihar, yet. That, despite taking safety and security surcharges, Indian Railways does not care even the least bit for the safety and security of genuine travelers. And most importantly, we have understood, in no unclear terms, that Bihar's law enforcement agencies are as sensitive to victim's plights as the Nazis were to the Jews during the Holocaust!

Pritam Bhattacharjee, a 25 year old from Silchar, Assam, and holding a Masters in Science in Physics, was brutally murdered in Bihar. He had been traveling by Awadh-Assam Express to New Delhi for registering in Doctoral Program at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The incidents leading to the murder are not very clear, but if the pieces are joined together, a definite and disturbing pattern can be visible.

A capture by Pritam Bhattacharjee. Not only good
at studies, he had a keen eye for photography too.
Titled "Glittering pearls down from the sky".
Source: Facebook Profile.
On a fateful Sunday, the 8th of July 2012, Pritam had boarded the Awadh-Assam Express from Guwahati. As reported in The Telegraph, Calcutta, Pritam had told his mother about being “tormented” and harassed by four Bihari youths, who were his fellow passengers, albeit without ticket, as is the norm in Bihar, on the same train. His father, Shanker Bhattacharjee, a retired principal of the Women’s College in Silchar, told The Telegraph that his son appeared “frightened” when he informed his mother about the incident on the phone. It has been reported that the four Bihari persons, who were travelling in the S-10 coach of the Delhi-bound train, started harassing him soon after they crossed in to Bihar. They turned violent when the train reached Naugachia railway station and snatched his bag containing a camera, laptop, his original certificates and other important documents. Although, Pritam fought with the criminals, their superior numbers meant that he was unsuccessful in stopping them. Even the Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) did not come to his help at that time. As the four criminals made their escape good, Pritam had to disembark from the train at Naugachia station and complained to a GRP official there, but the official preferred to “keep mum”. Thereafter, Pritam’s mobile phone was switched off and his family could not establish contacts with him any further.

Another capture by Pritam, titled, "Waves of colors
reaching the shore"
. Courtesy: Facebook.
Exactly one week afterwards, on 16 July, Pritam's badly mutilated body was found lying on the railway track, under the Kataria overbridge, 12 km from the Naugachia station and around 200 km from the state capital, Patna. It has been deduced that he was held captive by a gang for at least five days. He was then killed in cold blood and his body was left on the railway track.

It is due to the gross negligence on the part of the General Railway Police (GRP) and the Bihar Police, that Pritam had to loose his life. Of course, he was foolish enough to chase a pickpocket in, of all places, rural Bihar, where lawlessness reigns supreme. But, that does not absolve the police forces and the authorities of their culpability in this murder. The GRP officer, whom Pritam had approached at Naugachia, did not offer any support and even termed Pritam a "mad boy". What prompted him to act that way? Perhaps, a hefty commission from the gang! The Bihar police, on its part, could have taken the complaint filed by Pritam's family, about his disappearance, seriously and could have "actually" mounted a search and rescue operation for freeing him. But they too chose to remain idle for a considerable amount of time, thereby offering the gang a free run. Even the sole catch from the gang responsible for Pritam's murder, a Ram Krishna Singh, happened by sheer luck. He was caught by a village mukhia in a separate case and handed over to the police.

Once the death was confirmed, a game of "passing the bucks" started among the different organizations. Awadh-Assam Express, which is operated by N.F. Railway termed the murder as a law and order issue without owning any responsibility. The East Central Railway, a Lalu Prasad creation, under which Naugachia station falls, also washed its hands by claiming that the incident happened at a place that was under the jurisdiction of the state police. The Director General of Police, Bihar, looked visibly irritated, when asked about Pritam's murder and passed the buck on to the railway authorities. The General Railway Police (GRP) did not wish to comment saying that they had ordered an inquiry in to the matter. Lastly, Mr. Nitish Kumar, the so called Chief Executive style CM of Bihar, proffered his valuable input describing the murder as an isolated incidence! Only if, "passing the buck" were included in the Olympics!

Pritam Bhattacharjee
Image from Facebook Profile
Totally lost in this mad rush to wash off responsibility, is the general helplessness of passengers travelling in trains, against the attacks of the organized gangs aiming to rob them and the possibility of suffering grievous physical harm in case they choose to offer the slightest of resistances. The total indifference shown by multiple government agencies have united the common people of both the Brahmaputra and Barak valleys, which is probably the only positive from the entire affair. There have been spontaneous and sustained protests, both online, as well as, on the ground, by students' bodies, rights groups, apolitical and political organizations that have galvanized the people of Assam to rise for a common cause.

This incident prompts me to ask a few questions to those responsible for ensuring the safety and security of ordinary citizens in that particular geographic region. Who will be responsible for the passengers' safety, when trains travel through the badlands of Bihar? Should the passengers leave their valuables, like camera, laptop or mobile phone at their homes, before undertaking a journey that takes her/him through Bihar? If the general people of Bihar consider it to be their birthright to travel without a ticket, why should others pay for reservation of their seats? If the GRP personnel cannot act on a complaint by a genuine, ticket bearing passenger, then why should these useless fellows be reared wasting taxpayers', i.e. our money? What about the cases of stealing, robbery, molestation, those keep on happening in trains, even to passengers travelling by air conditioned coaches? Without any complicity by the law enforcers, the GRP and Railway Protection Force (RPF), how is it possible for the gangs to continue their "business" with impunity? Have we, ever, heard about RPF personnel confronting a gang of criminals, on any trains? The questions are too many, with answers very rare to come.  

And, I have some questions, as well as, suggestions for the Chief Executive of Bihar, Mr. Nitish Kumar, too. Firstly, Mr. Kumar, is this the example of your much publicized Bihar Version 2.0? Isn't there more sound bytes than actions on your and your administration's part since you came to power for the second time? Nitish Kumar, it probably will be best for you, as well as, for the people of Bihar and the people travelling through Bihar, if you devote more time to governing the state, instead of being obsessed with Narendra Modi all the time. It seems that you have taken the thought of becoming the  Prime Minister of India after the 2014 general election too seriously! As a result, you have lost the focus on governance and have been dabbling in all sorts of non-issues these days. Nitish Kumar, your second stint as the Bihar CM has been high on rhetoric and pathetically low on actionable items. At this rate, you have started following on the footsteps of your predecessor, Lalu Prasad Yadav. Instead of terming this gruesome murder as an isolated incidence, why could not you ensure that your police "actually" searched for the abducted youth? Or, why haven't you taken any actions against the guilty cops, who, it seems, went out of their way, not to book the offenders in this case? Why is your Director General of Police, carrying an air of arrogance around him, looked visibly irritated when some reporters asked about the status of this case? And lastly, Mr. Kumar, how can you claim that the rule of law has been established in Bihar? If incidents, such as this, are examples of good governance, then I shudder to think about what you consider as lawlessness!

Pritam Bhattacharjee, in his death, grabbed the headlines, precisely because he is dead. A budding research scholar lost his life due to the ineptness of the purported keepers of the law. As a common citizen of India, I can only feel sorry for the lad, for his parents and people who had been close to him.

With a heavy heart, I can only wish that your soul may rest in peace. Pritam, you did not deserve to die now - at this age and in this manner. Had you been born at some other civilized country, your fate might have been different. Unfortunately, you were born in India, where lawlessness is the new law, talking replaces doing and protectors turn destroyer in chief. The public memory has the notorious  reputation for being really short lived. A few days from now, we will forget about Pritam. Until the next victim succumbs to his fate, that is, and the cycle will continue.


  1. The saddest part is that no action is being taken in this case, and this creates ground for many many more similar incidents, now that everyone knows justice in these cases is child's play!

  2. @TECHRRAZ - Yes, that's the biggest problem in India. Most of the times, law enforcers are too lazy to book the offenders under correct laws and bye-laws, then follow those up with a proper charge-sheet within the stipulated time and follow up for a speedy trial. This has emboldened the wannabe criminals, as they know that chances for a conviction within their lifetime is pretty slim!