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17 May 2018

Teacher on poll duty found dead ....Footwear hurled at SDO in protest

Raj Kumar Roy
KOUSIK SEN, TT, May 17, 2018, Raiganj: A schoolteacher missing since Monday while on duty as a panchayat poll presiding officer in North Dinajpur was found dead near rail tracks 24km away, triggering protests by government staff during which a footwear was thrown at the local SDO on Wednesday.

The body of Raj Kumar Roy, 36, was found along the tracks near Raiganj on Tuesday night, almost 24 hours after he left his booth at Sonapur Primary School in Itahar. Roy, who taught at a school in North Dinajpur's Karandighi, hailed from Siliguri's Phansidewa. He is survived by his wife and two children.

On Wednesday, discontentment among a section of government employees over the violence during the panchayat elections spilled over in Raiganj.

Around 1,000 employees, mostly schoolteachers who are scheduled to join counting duty on Thursday, boycotted their training and hit the streets, resorting to road blocks and protests. The employees alleged that Roy had been abducted and murdered.

"We want immediate arrests of all those involved in the murder. We are concerned about our safety. We suspect that the schoolteacher was abducted, murdered and his body dumped near the tracks," Sanjit Ghosh, one of the protesters, said.

As the demonstration continued, T.N. Sherpa, the SDO of Raiganj, arrived at the spot to speak to the protesters and persuade them to withdraw the agitation.

A slipper tossed at SDO TN Sherpa (extreme left) and a cop trying to save him during the demonstration by government employees in Raiganj on Wednesday. Picture by Kousik Sen
But the demonstrators, who were carrying placards and shouting slogans, got agitated when they saw Sherpa. The officer announced that he had come to "listen to them" but some of the protesters allegedly shoved and abused him for "administrative inaction" and "failure to protect the polling staff".
Soon, Sherpa was surrounded by the group and at one point, a slipper was tossed at the SDO. One of the demonstrators then poured a bucket of water on Sherpa.

Late on Wednesday evening, the district administration announced that no teachers would be engaged in the counting of votes on Thursday. Teachers account for a sizeable portion of the staff engaged in counting.

On Monday, Roy had spoken to his family over phone in the evening and around 8pm - while some voters were still in the queue - left the booth and did not return. Other members of his team informed senior officers and told them that Roy could not be traced.

Shyam Singh, the North Dinajpur superintendent of police, said they had handed over the case of Roy's death to the CID. Ayesha Rani A, the district magistrate, said "no untoward incident" had taken place in the booth where Roy was posted.

In Siliguri's Phansidewa, Roy's hometown, some residents hit the streets against his death on Wednesday evening, alleging the schoolteacher had been murdered.

Six policemen were injured in brick-batting during the protests. Roy's body was yet to arrive from Raiganj.

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