Minor whose FB post triggered Basirhat riots, still unlawfully languishing in jail

At the start of July, Basirhat in West Bengal was rocked by communal violence when Islamist mobs went on a rampage after being offended by a 2nd July Facebook post of a 17 years old boy. The resulting violence led to the death of a 65 year old Kartik Ghosh and resulted in heavy damage to temples, establishments owned by Hindus and public property in general.

Just as the situation had started to boil, the local police had promptly arrested the school going minor. Now according to latest reports, the boy is still languishing in the jail while he should legally have been lodged in a juvenile correctional home.

The boy whose home was torched by the Jihadis, was registered as an 18+ youth even though there were still 4 days left before he was scheduled to turn 17. The police then also booked him under the sections reserved for carrying out deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings and also for publishing obscene material.

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He was first presented in front of an additional chief judicial magistrate’s court, which sent him to a 3 day police remand. He was later sent to a 14 day custody in the next appearance on 6th July, and only on 20th July did the subject of him being potentially tried as an adult came up.

Now the reason being given for him not being taken to the Juvenile Justice Board for trial is that his date of birth could not initially be ascertained. One of his lawyers named Brajendranath Ray blames this lapse on the local police. According to him, the boy had appeared for the Senior Secondary examination in January and it was well known that 90% of such students are aged around 16 years. Hence the lawyer claims that the police should have verified this information within a matter of hours.

The police now seems to have finally verified his birth certificate and the admit card of his Class X final and have deemed him to be a minor. C Sudhakar the SP of North 24 Parganas has been quoted as saying that the police would now recommend to the court on 3rd August (the next trial date) that he be sent for juvenile trial. These identification documents though were reportedly not recovered by the police but were painfully scrounged by activists of the Hindu Samhati from the ruins of his home.

The report also claimed that human rights groups in West Bengal were unusually quiet over this issue, supposedly because they had ”mixed feeling” about helping him.

This isn’t the only injustice the boy has faced. Many media outlets, including a propaganda blog favouring the Aam Aadmi Party, had revealed revealed the name and photograph of the concerned minor. This could very well have made him a target of other Jihadi groups. Such media groups are in violation of the Juvenile Justice Act, which prohibits publishing identity of a juvenile. Such media groups could face potential imprisonment of 6 months and a fine of Rs 2 lakh, but unfortunately there is not much support for a teenager.

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