The victim has been identified as Laxmikanta Bera.
School authorities, who were locked in a tussle with the trustee of an adjoining temple over a land on which both have laid claim, have lodged a complaint at Dum Dum police station against the latter. In the complaint, the school officials have alleged that the fire and the “murder of the school caretaker were part of a preplanned conspiracy hatched by the temple authorities”.
The CBSE-affiliated North Point Day School is located on Sahid Hemanta Kumar Basu Sarani adjacent to a Hanuman temple in Dum Dum’s Jawpur.
Around 3.30 am on Sunday, an acrid smell woke locals who saw smoke billowing out of the school. After an initial attempt to douse the flame, they realized it had already engulfed much of the building and informed police and fire brigade.
Locals alleged a nexus between local promoters and senior members of the temple trustee who were reportedly trying to evict the school and construct a highrise on the plot. “The land of the school was being eyed by real estate developers. The Hanuman temple trustees masterminded the entire episode,” said the guardian of a student.
School principal Srijit Krishnan Kutty alleged that an attempt was made in 1999 to set the school on fire. “The temple authorities illegally claimed the school building as their property as it is located adjacent to the temple campus. They have in the past threatened me with dire consequences if the school is not shifted out,” he said. The temple authorities refused to make any comment. Two members of the temple authority who were suspected as the prime accused in the complaint, have reportedly gone into hiding.
“We are waiting for the report from fire brigade to know the exact cause of the fire,” said Barrackpore police commissioner Niraj Kumar Singh.