Kolkata: The circumstances of West Bengal MLA and BJP leader Debendra Nath Roy’s death Monday remain shrouded in mystery, with his family claiming murder and police citing a suicide note where he purportedly referred to financial problems.
Roy, 60, a former CPI (M) member who won from the North Dinajpur district’s Hemtabad constituency in 2016, joined the BJP last year. He was found hanging at a shop just over a kilometre away from his house in the north Bengal town of Raiganj in the small hours of Monday.
Roy’s family has alleged that he was “called and taken” out of his house by a group of people around 1 am. His wife Chandima Roy told ThePrint that her husband went out around 1 am. She said, however, that she had not seen who came for him.
Their nephew Pritish Chandra Roy said his uncle was “killed”. “My uncle cannot commit suicide. He was surely killed. We demand a CBI probe into it,” he added.
Police, however, claim to have found a suicide note on Roy. “We recovered a suicide note from his pocket. He mentioned some financial issues he was into for some days,” said Raiganj superintendent of police Sumit Kumar.
“He also wrote about two men. We are investigating the matter. The body has been sent for an autopsy.” West Bengal Police also issued a statement on Twitter, saying Roy’s death prima facie appeared to be a suicide, and requesting people not to jump to “biased conclusions”.
All necessary steps of investigation such as use of tracker dog, visit of forensic experts are being taken. PM is yet to be done. People are requested not to jump on speculative, biased and judgmental conclusions and to wait for the investigation to complete.(3/3)
— West Bengal Police (@WBPolice) July 13, 2020
Shift from left to right
Roy was known among local residents as an honest and dedicated communist leader. A farmer by profession, he joined the CPI (M) in 1980.
Roy led a humble life and was popular among people for his social work, said CPI (M) district committee secretary Apurpa Pal.
Roy was a member of the CPI(M) zonal committee, and two-term panchayat pradhan. He made his assembly election debut in 2016.
Hemtabad has been a CPI (M) bastion since it came into being in 2011 after a delimitation exercise.
“The party selected him as a candidate on account of his popularity and his connection with the people. In fact, in 2016, when the Trinamool Congress swept the election, he won with a 41 per cent vote share,” said Pal.
Roy defeated his Trinamool rival by a margin of almost 13,000 votes in that election. He joined the BJP in Delhi last year, a decision that is said to have left his CPI (M) colleagues confounded.
“He never explained or informed why he joined the saffron brigade. He was a real communist leader, connected to the ground. After we got to know about his change of political allegiance, we expelled him from the party,” said Pal.
Sujan Chakraborty, leader of the CPI (M) legislative party, said Roy “never spoke in detail, but he once hinted that he joined the BJP for political shelter”. “We had always known him as a very modest man,” he added.
Calls for a high-level investigation grow
In the hours following Roy’s death, a video purportedly showing his body hanging by a hook at a Raiganj shop went viral. The video shows one of his hands tied with a thin rope that is also believed to have been used for the noose.
His death has sparked widespread shock, leading to calls for a high-level inquiry.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar tweeted that his autopsy should be videographed in compliance with Supreme Court guidelines.
Hematabad MLA ‘hanging’-Police stance at top that it is ‘suicide’ is indicative of cover up- smacks with police prejudice, not without obvious intentions.
BY EXPERT TEAM
AS PER SUPREME COURT DIRECTIVES
Highest TRANSPARENCY be observed @MamataOfficial
— Governor West Bengal Jagdeep Dhankhar (@jdhankhar1) July 13, 2020
BJP leaders, including the party’s national president J.P. Nadda, have hinted at foul play.
The suspected heinous killing of Debendra Nath Ray, BJP MLA from Hemtabad in West Bengal, is extremely shocking and deplorable. This speaks of the Gunda Raj & failure of law and order in the Mamta govt. People will not forgive such a govt in the future. We strongly condemn this.
— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) July 13, 2020
West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh has demanded a high-level CBI probe into the incident. “An MLA is not safe in the state either. What can be worse than this? We have lost over 100 workers and leaders in the last two years. They were murdered, but most of these incidents were presented as suicides,” said Ghosh.
The Trinamool Congress, however, rubbished the allegations. “He was found hanging at a shop. There was some property dispute going on. We came to know that he had to sell some portion of his land to pay his debts. Police recovered a note and they are looking into it,” said North Bengal minister Rabindranath Ghosh.
Former Raiganj MP Mohammad Salim of the CPI (M) said “Roy was a very calm and composed person”. “He was a silent worker. The BJP claims he was murdered while police say he committed suicide. We want a high-level inquiry or a central investigation into it,” he added.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.