Bhatpara Fact-Finding Report (2018-2019) – Part 2


  • August 12, 2020
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Bhatpara, is one of the most prominent names in the existing map of communal conflicts in West Bengal. Over the years, through various published and unpublished studies, AAMRA has noted that settlements near the Jute-mills along the river Hooghly are quite prone to communal polarisation and identity-led conflicts. This is a study of exploring identity consolidation in and around Bhatpara region through a series of fieldworks. This study unravels the complex politics-identity interface through intensive study of facts and artefacts. We have intentionally kept some of the raw data in the report, as there are more inconclusive questions than answers, as to what actually happened in Bhatpara over the years. There are multiple narratives, perspectives and dimensions to each of the conflicts that have rocked the political and everyday spectrum of West Bengal. This is part 2 of the report. To read Part 1 click here.

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Kankinara Communal Violence, 2018

 

It was on July 18, 2018, before Bhatpara captured national and international news coverage; that AAMRA began its field study in this area. We made repeated visits to know the details of the violence. When our team entered ward number 8, the area was already tensed. We talked to Maqsud Alam, the councillor, family members of the deceased person and also talked with other local people. Arjun Singh, the then Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Bhatpara constituency was one of the muscle men of the ruling Party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC). He was the fulcrum of power politics in the entire region The communal violence of 2018, showed his role as the ‘man behind the fire’. Our interaction with Maqsud Alam disclosed some of the trends of politics and the mechanisms of communal politics working in the region. It became clear that Mr. Arjun Singh, the MLA of TMC, a precious ‘asset’ for Chief Minister and TMC Supremo, Mamata Banerjee, was fuelling communal politics in the region.  

 

Conversation with Councillor Md Maqsud Alam

 

Maqsud Alam: For the last couple of years, Ram Navami rally was being organized. Before that we remember, only once, about 15 years back, there was such a rally. In 2017, there was a conflict, which initiated from the rally. Consequently, this year from the very beginning, TMC took the responsibility of organizing the rally. Arjun Singh gave the responsibility to Priyangshu Pandey to undertake and organize the entire program. Local Muslims were ready to distribute water to the persons participating in the rally. The rally was progressing peacefully, but eventually, a few people entered into the rally at its rear end and started teasing people. They were playing a song centered round the core theme that “if you want to stay in this country you have to put your feet down.” This song resulted in a strong repercussion among the local Muslims. Where the rally was supposed to end, Muslim started hurling bricks and water bottles. But, there was a party office nearby and Arjun Singh was also present there. Consequently, the conflict could not take much of a bad shape. The situation was managed.

 

AAMRA: The rally was organized by your Party, TMC?

Maqsud Alam:  The rally doesn’t only have TMC cadres; rather, several aides of Priyangshu were present there, they were all BJP cadres. They had a plan to create trouble.

AAMRA: Yes, others were there, but your party was the organizer, isn’t it?

Maqsud Alam: Yes

AAMRA: Why ‘Ram Navami’ rally? Why will a religious rally be in your agenda?

Maqsud Alam: I can’t reply; the decision was taken from the party’s higher level.

AAMRA: It means, Mamata Banerjee, Arjun Singh?

Maqsud Alam: She is our supreme leader and he is our boss.

 

Although the conflict was momentarily controlled, people from both communities were angry with each other. Local administration tried to bring back peace between the two communities, Mr. Alam told us. He also mentioned that on that very day, there was another conflict, which started in Kantapukur area. A person was murdered and Priyangshu was one of the accused. Priyangshu suddenly disappeared. He doesn’t keep any contact with TMC. People have tried to contact him, but failed. There is a hidden news that Priyangshu is establishing contact with the BJP, rather with Mukul Ray – the BJP leader. But the role of Arjun Singh, who recruited Priyangshu for the rally was not clear. We asked him repeatedly, but Mr. Alam remained silent.

Children of Kankinara victim

 

Conversation at Kantapukur

Kankinara, Ward Number- 15 (Hindu 60% and Muslims 40%)

 

We were having a group discussion at a local club inside a Muslim dominated area. We could feel they were still afraid. Till date no mainstream media has come to talk to them. They showed us a large pond on one side of which there were Muslim settlements, the Hindus residing on the other side of the pond. They have never encountered a problem like this. Previously, they used to have tea together, and talked with each other for hours. Now they are avoiding each other.

 

Regarding the Ram Navami incident, they stated that the problem started just before the rally ended. Bottles and bricks were hurled. They claimed Priyangshu’s team had done it. TMC controlled the situation, but Priyangshu, along with his team, took another route. They broke down the statue of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad near the bridge. They continued the ransacking there and finally came to Kantapukur. They fired about 100 to 150 rounds of bullets. It was about to get dark. Three people suffered bullet injuries and a horse was also shot. One person died. It happened on the road and in front of everyone. Everyone here is working people. We work, earn and live our life. The person who died was a balloon seller.

 

They were of the opinion that many TMC workers are actually BJP supporters inside. Priyangshu belongs to TMC only officially. He has good contact with BJP and it was clear on that day itself. They have come to know that the absconding Priyangshu has taken shelter under BJP. Local Muslims are suffering from lack of security.

 

Conversation at Late Kuddus Khan’s house

 

Kuddus Khan used to stay with his in-laws at Kantapukur Club road. He used to stay in a tiny shanty. He was 35 years old. He has left behind his wife and three daughters. He used to sell Balloons. Understandably his earning is miniscule and the family live in extreme poverty. Kuddus never worked for any political party. He was a known peace-loving person in the locality. He knew that there was a riot going on, but he didn’t expect them to come in that area. He went out in the evening to bring back her daughter and suddenly he was struck by a flying bullet. He fell on the street and died immediately. When the news reached his family, Kuddus’s eldest brother-in-law ran to look for him but by then the police had taken away the dead body.

 

We wanted to know if they had lodged any complaint, if any FIR had been lodged. They showed us a piece of paper which is not an FIR. It was a complaint letter which neither bore any signature nor any receipt stamp. However, they are happy with the initiative taken by the administration as they have received Rs. 10 lakhs as compensation and Kuddus’s wife, Chandra Khatun, was given a permanent job in the Municipality. 

 

Visit to the Hindus residents on other side of Kantapukur:

 

We tried to talk to residents of one of the houses immediately after entering the locality. They refused to talk saying they don’t know anything. It was already noon and there was no one on the road. We talked to a couple of young boys. Firstly, they said they didn’t know of any murder. They said there was a Ram Navami Rally and there was a conflict near the temple, but they refused to say anything more. When we mentioned about the murder they accepted the fact. But their body language was as if “a Muslim has died and it doesn’t matter.” It was evident that the violent conflict which started from the Ram Navami rally didn’t leave any impact on their mind. They simply said “Muslims should move about keeping their face down.” Their anti-Muslim mind set was quite evident. They clearly stated that they do not belong to any particular political party; however, there was a clear inclination towards BJP’s activities.

 

Officer-in-Charge, Bhatpara Police Station:

 

An officer at Bhatpara Police Station, clearly declared that he cannot talk to us regarding this. As per rule he should not say this. We requested him repeatedly to brief us about the present situation but he refused to talk every time.

 

Our finding discloses following information. The FIR which was lodged by the deceased family has a reference no. of 336. So far 9 persons have been arrested and charge sheets against them given in court. The hearing of the case is going in at Barrackpore court. Trial has started. The chief accused are Priyangshu Pandey, Bikram Shau and others.

 

The problem started with the provocative song being played in the rally. Muslims were becoming restless with the song being played. Hindus were also ready. Before the rally ended it was the Muslims who started the attack first. Hindus were waiting for that opportunity and immediately attacked the Muslims with bottles, stones and bricks. It could have become much worse had there not been a TMC party-office and a police sub-station nearby.

 

Later on, Muslims hurled a bomb near Priyangshu’s house and in response, he along with his men went to Kantapukur and fired in which one person was killed.

 

At Jagatdal Police Station:

 

We waited there for about 45 minutes and then the Officer-in-Charge, Sanjib Chakrabarti, came. We wanted to talk to him. He refused to talk and even told us that we don’t have a legal right to do this fact finding. When we told him that we have been doing such work for a long time and we are a group of Human Rights activists and researchers working on Conflict and Coexistence, he said we are breaking rules from the very beginning. We didn’t engage in any debate with him and left, frankly we had nothing new to know from him. 

 

Priyangshu Pandey is now moving around in the area openly in broad daylight. In the lockdown period he even distributed relief to strengthen his ‘popularity’. He is now ‘officially’ with BJP and also is the face of RSS in the area.   

 

Talking to victims and their relatives

 

We were talking in front of Md. Halim’s home. At first we met Md. Kamruddin, nephew of deceased Md. Halim. He didn’t want to talk to us. He wanted to be sure about our identity. When we told him our purpose and aim, someone said “it’s been two months, what is the point of talking?” We clarified our objectives and after that the discussion started.

 

Kamruddin:  On 3rd June, three households here have lost everything. They set fire in Akbar Ali and Taher Hussain’s house. After that day,  bombing became a regular incident. People used to come on motorcycles, on toto or on foot. All are unknown faces.

 

From 5th to 7th July nothing happened. We thought that the problem was over now. My Uncle, Md. Halim, a retired Jute mill worker, was seated here (pointing to the porch/verandah of their house). Suddenly a huge noise was heard. Smoke had engulfed everything. They had charged a couple of bombs, one on my uncle’s head and a second one on Md. Mustak whose home is nearby. My uncle’s skull was cracked. He died on the spot. My aunty too was injured, she was admitted to Apollo hospital and now she has come back. Nearly 3.5 lakhs was spent on her treatment, West Bengal Government has borne the entire cost. My Uncle’s younger son, Tabrej lost his eyesight (details of Tabrez and his sibling and their mother will be covered in the part of ‘victim’s testimony’ of this report). He went to Disha Eye Hospital at Barrackpore for treatment. He is ok now. Uncle’s elder son Parvez (22) has been given a job by the State Government. He joined last month and has drawn the salary.

 

AAMRA:  What was the role of the Police?

Kamaruddin: Now there is a police posting here. They are armed police. But even then there are incidents of bombing.

AAMRA: Didn’t the police  arrest them?

Kamaruddin: Out of 6 police personnel, 4 were patrolling, 1 was sleeping and what could that single person do?

AAMRA: How did the bombers know that police are patrolling outside, only one is practically on duty?

This time Kamaruddin remained speechless. In the meantime his neighbours gathered, practically our discussion was converted to a group discussion. It seemed that people were satisfied with police action.

Charred remains of a house in Bhatpara

 

Group discussion

About 12-14 people gathered there. They were of different age groups. Basically 3-4 people took part in this discussion. Initially, few among them were unwilling to take part in the conversation. They were ranting on the fact that there are many people who come and talk but the situation remains the same. Till then regular bombing was going on.

 

Kamaruddin: They set fire to the corner house on the 23rd. It was around 10 in the night. The only reason is to drive away people from fear. Those who set fire were thinking themselves as heroes.

Some one: Don’t take photos!

AAMRA: No, no, we won’t take photos, don’t worry.

Kamaruddin: In three adjacent houses they also set fire and all three are burned down. All the belongings are gone.

AAMRA: What was his name?

Another person: His name was Akbar Ali. He was the head of the family. The house at the back belonged to Taher Hussain, they have burned it down as well. The two families had at least 15 members.

Kamaruddin: After 23rd they were hurling at least a couple of bombs here every day. We don’t know them. They come by walking, sometimes on a bike, sometimes on a toto. They said “All the Miyans (meant the Muslims) must leave this place, abandon their homes. We will not let any one of you to stay here.” Sometimes in broad daylight at 11am, sometimes at night. They don’t even wear a mask, but all are unknown faces. Three unknown boys came, we thought they were joking. But this is continuing for quite some time now. Sometimes the bombings stopped for a day or two. You can find the actual report at the police station. It is there because sometimes police raided them. If police have chased them away 7 times, they have hurled bombs 94 (he meant 93) times. Sometimes two people will come, sometimes three.

AAMRA: How can they be so fearless? Only three people come and  hurl bombs!

Kamaruddin: Who will do anything to them? Local leader is supporting them. There are many illiterate people. They get money and do it. Someone with education will not do that. “Our leader ordered me, so I have to do that, my leader is god to me!” This is how it happens. But sometimes there is a gap of a week. Since June 2, everything has stopped. People became careless. Everyone was sitting here and there… talking with each other. On 10th June, there were 4-5 people sitting and here (a little away) another 4 to 5 people were sitting. In front of him, his child was also there. I was sitting here, Mustaq was there. I was looking at the front, no one was there. Suddenly there was a huge sound. A bomb was hurled and smoke engulfed us. I quickly went inside the room. The sound was so loud that I felt at least ten bombs might have been blasted. I could not listen to anything for at least 1.5 hrs. When I came outside, I found that my aunty was holding my uncle’s body like this (showing a pose), on her lap. His skull was broken.

 

There were two sounds, which meant that two bombs were hurled within a second. Akhbar e Mashriq (an Urdu newspaper) has covered the story. After this incident the entire area became riot prone. On 23rd June,  40 shops in Kankinara bazaar were burned down.

 

AAMRA: Whose shops? Everyone’s or only the Muslim’s?

Kamaruddin: Everyone’s. Hindu and Muslim both, sufferer are common people.

AAMRA: You are talking about god, who is he?

Kamaruddin: Guess who?

Now everybody … Here everybody knows who the culprit is. Lok Sabha poll, change of party became crucial factor.

Someone: ‘Bap-bete ne jina haram kar diya’(Father-son has made our life miserable). (Someone in whispering voice)

AAMRA: Yes it is a problem. But once he was popular.

Aged Person-1: Popular for the anti-socials from both communities. Not for common Hindu-Muslim. Now we are depending on the police. They have become our protectors.

AAMRA: Police are deployed here.

Almost everybody: The State government has posted armed forces here. We have given them a place to stay. The bombing continues in front of them… just go and ask them. Only two people are here, what will they do?

Another aged person : We know that the person hurling bombs are the labourers. They are doing it for money. I am sure the person making the bomb or funding it is someone else. These labourers do not have any ideological intention to hurl bombs.

AAMRA: Anyone came for providing compensation?

Someone: Yes, the incident happened on 10th, on 11th Madan Mitra came along with Jyotipriyo Mallik from TMC.

AAMRA:  Anyone from BJP came?

Almost everybody: Till date no one came, except the TMC.

Kamaruddin: We had to spend Rs. 80000/- for treating Tabrej’s eyes, Tabrej is my cousin. My aunty had to undergo a surgery which costed around 3 lakhs and 50 thousand (Some debate with another youth regarding the amount, he differs)

AAMRA: Who bore the cost?

Kamaruddin: State government.

AAMRA: Do you remember any conflict of this magnitude before?

Kamaruddin: Never. I came here in half pants in the year 1984. We rented a house and stayed here and then built our own home. I am 42, and I have never seen this before. Here you will find 4 Hindu households in every 10 households… we stay together.

A teenage boy: Say if I hurl a bomb on you, are there are ways to identify who I am from my look, but look at this uncle, just by looking at him you can say he is a Muslim.

Kamaruddin:  Exactly.  For me or for you no one can say whether we are Hindu or Muslim.

AAMRA: Who is local then? What is the stand of the neighbouring Hindus?

Two people: There are locals. See that house (showing a local Hindu household), they do not stay at home during the night.

AAMRA: They are afraid?

Almost everyone: No, no. Whenever they are not here, there will be bombing. When they are staying there there is no bombing.

AAMRA: They are involved?

(No reply for two-three seconds, then)

Reply came from a person: Yes, of course

AAMRA: Did you people talk to each other after this incident?

That person: They have left this place since that day. They are not coming back.

AAMRA: Till now?

Kamaruddin: Yes, till now. After the fire at our place, everyone wants to talk to them. There is another Hindu household here belonging to that of Kinar Singh, once he was a Zamindar (landlord).

AAMRA: You mean Hindu houses have also been burned down?

Aged person-2: No, only the Muslims. There were three Hindu houses and others were Muslims. There is one Dharmendra Singh of that landlord family. We went to talk to him. He replied that he will talk to their leader, if the leader permits then only he will talk to us. On the 23rd we first went to him to convey that the local hindu leader should intervene. He said that he needs permission from his leader. He is loyal to Arjun Singh.

AAMRA: Any conversation after that?

Aged Person-2: None at all.

(We stood up to visit adjoining Hindu households. Some of them (the group) were with us. All the doors were locked from outside. We halted in front of a Hindu building, it looked abandoned.

Kamaruddin: They didn’t come back. Police have tried their best. 

It’s because of the police we are still here, otherwise they (Hindus) would have pushed us away from here. 

AAMRA:  Yes, the presence of the Police gave you protection, this is a fact. But all the Hindu households are abandoned. It means your Hindu neighbors are also in fear? As you are afraid of them?

Two young persons: We did not tell them anything threatening, but it is a fact that they are aware of every attack on us. Only after they left their houses, bombers came here to bomb. It is a routine we saw.

 

Hasina Banu and Azim Mia

We met this aged couple at platform number one of Jagatdal Railway Station on 11 August, 2019. Riot has displaced them from their rental house. Kundan Shaw, owner of the house practically used the ‘riot’ and pushed them out. Octogenarian Azim Mia is a rickshaw-paddler, now unable to work because of his poor health. Here is the synopsis of our interaction with them.

 

Azim Mia and Hasina Banu: After being snubbed by rioters we came here. They threatened us with a bomb. We went to Jagaddal Police Station but the police did not take any diary. We have been begging them (police) repeatedly for the last one month.

 

After recommendation from Mamata Banerjee’s party they came here last Tuesday. They took our snapshot. Police told them to open our rental home, but they refused to budge. The landlord told the police that we are bad people. We have been there for 42 years. Nobody raised any objection against us. Now suddenly we have become bad people.

 

Police told them to come to the Police station to discuss the matter with both parties, but they (the landlord) did not agree. Police asked them to show appropriate papers as they claim that our stay was illegal. The Landlady told the police that her husband is working at Howrah, they can’t show anything now. So Sunday was settled for the meeting as the landlord is available on that day. On the said day we arrived at scheduled time 11 am, but they remained absent till 2 pm. After their arrival we told the police, ‘we came here on time without taking bath or food, please call them, please do something for mutual settlement’. Police called them and asked them to show documents. They showed some papers, police told them, ‘these papers are fabricated, don’t show it to us’. Police told them to show court papers within three days. We two old persons moved around here and there, requested everybody, neighbors, friends, foes; but returned with empty hands (At that time Hasina Banu was practically gasping and crying).

 

AAMRA: And after that?

Azim Mia: Someone told us that they got court paper. ‘You have no chance’, he also said.

AAMRA: Since then you are staying here at Jagatdal Railway station?

Hasina Banu: Hya Beta (Yes my son), kaha jayen (Where will we go)? 

AAMRA: Your sons, daughters?

Hasina Banu: They are not economically sound. And probably busy with their family. No space for poor parents.

AAMRA: Before this riot have you experienced any such type of problem?

Hasina Banu: Not for a single day. Even though we are neglected by our own children; we are not neglected by them.

AAMRA: Who are ‘they’?

Hasina Banu: They are our neighbors, Hindu neighbors. But what happened this time! They turned their faces from us.

Azim Mia: Ye rajniiti ki karon hua (This is because of politics). BJP vs TMC means Hindu vs Muslim. We became the football of this game.

AAMRA: It is politics, you said. Nothing to do with religion?

Azim Mia: Nothing. I have pain in my knee. Who will support us?

Hasina Banu: He has to go to hospital to get medicines. Our shelter, livelihood – we lost everything.

AAMRA: Did you not get any help from local administration?

Hasina Banu: No. Few people like you gave us some money, Eid ul Fitr is coming; we did not know how to celebrate.

 

This couple got more media coverage, social workers rushed to the said platform number one. But their helplessness remains. Latest update of this old couple is more pathetic, after a few months they were shifted to an 8/8 foot room near Lalita High School, adjoining the Babu Quarter, Jagaddal by the police. Photo session is now over, they are again in deep turmoil.

 

Reportage

 

A small garment shop adjoining the Jagaddal Boro Mosjid (Mosque) is owned by Muhammad Ayub. The  rioter looted garments, amounting approximately to Rs 24000. On the opposite of it, a large garment shop of Agarwal’s remained untouched.

 

Irfan Communication Center was converted to BJP Party Office. At Manik Pir area, Muhammad Javed’s house was captured by BJP cadres, now it is their Party Office.

 

Some of the family members from the Hindu community who were injured or whose member had died alleged that Muslim miscreants came here in police uniform. We identified them with their ‘chappal’, they told me.

 

Other Interactions

 

On 11 August, 2019, we started to walk from the railway station along the Ghoshpara Road to reach the entrance of Tina-Gudam slum. We were waiting for another team member to arrive near the new police station. A middle aged lady, Jaychan Bibi was selling pigeons and cigarettes. She asked “Are you going to collect some data from us?”

 

AAMRA: Why did you ask? You want to tell us something?

Jaychan Bibi: They looted everything, nothing is left

AAMRA: What happened?

Jaychan Bibi: My daughter-in-law was alone. She fled and they looted everything.

AAMRA: When did it happen?

Jaychan Bibi:  The day after election (Actually the day after election  result was declared, 24.05.2019)

AAMRA: Do you know who did this?

Jaychan Bibi: I was not present there. My daughter-in-law fled out of fear. Nothing has been restored till now.

[At this moment a gentleman arrived. He introduced himself as her son and gave a copy of the FIR he has lodged in the Police Station]

AAMRA: Where did you stay?

Jaychan Bibi:  Come with me, I will show you.

AAMRA: What have you lost in the looting?

Jaychan Bibi: It happened in the night. Refrigerator, Television and all the boxes we had.

 

As we were walking down, we met a person named Kapil Jadav. He was a cattle raiser and was with his cows who were grazing. Some of his calves had died in the bombing.

 

Kapil Jadav: See, cow is like our children, you understand that! Now who can compensate for the loss of my cow?

Rajak: Did the government do anything?

Kapil Jadav: How much the government can do? What am I supposed to do with Rs. 5000/-?

Rajak: Anyone came to you after the incident?

Kapil Jadav: Yes, Mr. Arjun Singhh and his son Pavan Singh, both had come.

Rajak: Did you lodge any police complaint?

Kapil Jadav: What is the point? Arjun Singh also told me to lodge a police complaint. But by lodging the complaint and taking Rs. 5000 I don’t want to earn a bad name. I will do it in my own way.

AAMRA: Did anyone from the state government come and visit you?

Kapil Jadav: No one came from the State government.

AAMRA: How many cows have you lost?

Kapil Jadav: Two cows and two calves.

AAMRA: When did this happen?

Kapil Jadav: On 21st. You know 19th was the election day here (Assembly bi-election). After that it happened. It happened in broad daylight. Around 8:30 in the morning.

AAMRA: Why didn’t you lodge a complaint?

Kapil Jadav: What is the point? They don’t listen to our complaints. Instead, they pick us up and harass us in the police station.

 

Exploring Tina Gudam

 

We reached Tina Gudam, colony of the jute mill labourers. This slum-like colony was badly affected by communal violence. There was a large jute warehouse made out of iron sheets (popularly known as Tin), from which it acquired the name Tina Gudam, ‘Gudam’ stands for the warehouse. We found out that APDR (human right organisation) members were preparing a list of riot affected families, some of our team mates joined in this initiative. It was aimed at helping the kids with the study materials so that they can quickly resume their studies. Since Eid was next day, a small common place was being decorated by local boys. We saw that the same place that is used for keeping the Taziya was also decked with Jai-Shree-Ram cut outs. As we were talking with people openly it became clear cohabitation between both communities was a norm here. From here we went to slums near the Kankinara Jute mill. 

 

We met with Sayeda Khatun, a rag picker (after collecting papers from street, vats etc, she used to sell it to the waste paper wholesaler), a resident of Tina Gudam. Miscreants looted all her savings which she had saved from her meagre income for her daughter’s marriage. It happened on the night of 19 June, 2019. After a two days gap, on 21 June, the miscreants came back again and this time they robbed the television set, fan etc. Poor Sayeda Khatun have not returned to her home since that incident 

 

We were informed, “even a ‘red-light’ area (brothel) has come up here.” Our team mate and local activist, Vijay Rajak told, ‘Later on, the situation changed as the jute mills were no longer profitable. The owners started to exploit the labourers. Even we have seen that if someone died inside the mill, they used to drag the body out of the mill so that his family loses the right for compensation. The mills are making retired persons work at miniscule wages. The labour unrest is a major problem now.”

 

Exploring Darma Line

 

Among riot-affected colonies the worst affected has been the Muslim settlement at Darma line. Here 32 Muslim household were looted and destroyed. Details of the Darma Line pillage are disclosed by two youths in the last paragraph of this report. 

 

House Number-24, 5 Number Railway Siding

 

24 Hindu households reside here in 32 rooms. It is a prototype of destruction like in the Darma line and Tina Gudam. This locality is under ward number 8 of Bhatpara Municipality, which is a Muslim dominated ward. Following the easy equation that Hindu means BJP voters, TMC candidate Madan Mitra and his goons targeted them. We were informed that under the leadership of TMC councillor, Maksud Alam, Hindu households were destroyed and looted. 

 

Almost 15 students lost their books, copies etc. Nisha Mahato, a college student, despite economic hardship, got admission in Barrackpore Surendranath College. The riot has destroyed her dream like Tamanna Parvin of Darma Line. Here we report the loss of two families as they stated.

 

Amar Shaw got approximately Rs. 200,000/- after his retirement from Bhatpara Reliance Jute Mill. After retirement he started a tea shop in front of house number 24. He also does some electrical repairing works which enables him to earn a little extra. “But this riot has made me a beggar”, he told us. 

 

Amar Shaw continued:

“We settled the marriage of my younger daughter, Meena Kumari Shaw. So I withdrew one lakh from the Bank. Rioters looted that money and all the gold ornaments, utensils for Chhat Puja, one of the religious festivals of Hindi Speaking Hindus, and all other utensils of daily use. They took away even the electric fans, which I was supposed to repair and give back to the customers. My tea shop was also looted.”

 

He pauses and we asked him about the compensation he has recieved, if any:

 

“I got instant help from the police, they gave me Rs 3000. From the State Government we got Rs 2,50,000. We are thankful to the Government. We are poor people. We have nothing to do with politics. We are living in deep anxiety. My wife lost her life, on 21 May, 2019 due to cardiac failure. The only option I have left for the marriage of my daughter  is to sell my tea shop.”

 

Opposite to house number 24, a mobile phone shop owned by Dharmendra Prasad was also looted.

 

But what was the background to the violence in  ‘Tina Gudam’, ‘Darma Line’ and ‘House number 24’ ? We know that these are outcomes of a combination of deep-rooted reasons and fuelling events. The Bhatpara Assembly by-election became a war between the two political parties, viz. TMC and BJP in West Bengal. TMC selected Madan Mitra as their candidate against Pawan Singh, the son of Arjun Singhh. The bi election took place because Arjun Singh won the Parliamentary election from Barrackpore constituency and he had to resign from his MLA seat.  For Madan Mitra Bhatpara was his ‘waterloo’. He had to win this election to save his political career. Pawan Singh had to maintain his family’s political legacy. Finally, Arjun Singh had to prove that he is the ‘ultimate boss’ in Bhatpara. In this situation,  BJP aimed at consolidating the Hindu votes. For TMC, it was a lost game, so they attempted to portray themselves as the protectors of the Muslims. Clearly, it was an attempt to counter the arms and muscle power of Arjun Singhh. He was used by TMC even in the last Panchayat election in 2018. The poor marginal labourers of Bhatpara had no option but to watch this political battle. It’s they who ultimately suffered the collateral damage.

 

(to be continued)

Click the link to read Bhatpara Fact-Finding Report (2018-2019) – Part 3

 

………………………….

Bhatpara Fact-finding Report (2018-2020)

By AAMRA Ek Sachetan Prayas Forum

Date of Publication: 1 August, 2020

Team Members

Sushmita Roy Chowdhury, Shamindra Sarkar, Tutun Mukherjee, Mohit Ranadip, Faruque Ul Islam, Subha Protim Roy Chowdhury, Suman Nath, Amitava Sen Gupta, Akash Bhattacherya, Promod Gupta, Debasish Paul, Sandip Sinha Roy, Vijay Rajak

Photographs by : Faruque Ul Islam, Suman Nath

Feature Image courtesy: The Hindu

 

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