It refused to allow body to be taken home citing by-election

The West Bengal government “delayed” the return of the body of the assistant commandant of CRPF, S.K. Das, to his native place citing “by-election in Howrah as a reason,” claimed a release issued by the paramilitary force in New Delhi.

“We think it is downright insulting if bodies of martyrs are stopped or delayed from reaching their homes at the earliest,” said the Central Reserve Police Force release.

Mr. Das was killed on Saturday in an exchange of fire with cadres of the outlawed CPI (Maoist) in Dhamteri district, about 100 km south of here.

Sources claimed that the body would have reached at least “five hours earlier,” if the West Bengal government had not “stopped” the body from reaching Mr. Das’ home in Howrah.

Senior CRPF officers claimed that it was “ironical” that while CRPF personnel were used to ensure fair polling in the by-election to the Howrah parliamentary seat, the body of their colleague, who died fighting the Naxals, had to wait for several hours till polling was over.

The release issued by the CRPF’s national headquarters blamed West Bengal Home Secretary Basudeb Banerjee for the delay. Mr. Banerjee “…called and said the martyr’s body should be sent by the Indigo flight on June 2 and cited the election in Howrah as the reason,” said the release.

CRPF sources in the national capital claimed that the West Bengal government wanted Mr. Das’ body to reach the State by the Indigo flight which left Raipur at 4.50 p.m. The State government also offered to send tickets for Mr. Das’ family members. “It was only an oral assurance,” said the release.

It clarified that the CRPF rejected the proposal to send Mr. Das’ body on the Indigo flight and opted for the Gitanjali Express. In doing so they made the officer’s body reach Howrah at least five hours earlier.

“The train left Raipur at 11.35 p.m. [on June 1]. The martyr’s body reached Howrah station at 1.45 p.m. on June 2. The Indigo flight, if taken, would have reached the airport at 6.10 p.m. and then it would have taken at least two more hours for the body to reach Howrah.

The officers claimed that after reaching the Howrah station the body was not allowed to be taken to Mr. Das’ house immediately and kept in the headquarters of 167 battalion of CRPF at Strand Road, Kolkata.

“Our plan was to reach his house straight from Howrah station. We arrived at the station at 1.45 p.m. As Mr. Das’ house is also in the same area, the body could have been easily taken to his house by 2.30 p.m. We had also planned a wreath laying ceremony at Mr. Das’ house. But we were asked to wait in the battalion headquarters till the election was over,” said a senior officer.

The release said the CRPF in Kolkata “…accommodated an unusual request by the West Bengal government to send the body to the martyr’s home only after 6 p.m. even though the placing of wreaths (at Strand Road) was completed by 3.30 p.m. on June 2.”

“To the best of our knowledge, rules governing elections in India do not bar taking bodies of martyrs to their homes, while the election is underway,” said the CRPF release.

Several attempts to reach the West Bengal Home Secretary over phone failed on Monday night.

Media reports claimed that the West Bengal government refuted the allegations and complained to Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde against the CRPF.