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 Over the years, through various published and unpublished studies, AAMRA has noted that settlements near the Jute-mills along the river Hooghly are quite prone to communal polarisation and identity-led conflicts.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 3 of the report. To read Part 1 click here, to read Part 2 click here and to read part three click here.
One comes to know what has happened. People usually collect information from media and political parties, but that information remains partial. In the area where people are highly polarized and where violence can erupt anytime, it was difficult to talk freely with anybody, and particularly to those who lost their family members in the violence. We planned to talk with the deceased’s family to better understand the different reasons and circumstances of their death.
Conversation with deceased Md. Halim’s wife and her youngest son
When we appeared at their door they were inside of their house. It was a lonely afternoon. Rubi Parvin, widow of deceased Md. Halim and their younger son Tabrej Alam were introduced to us by Kamaruddin. Only two persons on behalf of AAMRA talked with them.
AAMRA: We have come to ask you some questions. We didn’t come during the violence because we knew that was not the right time to ask questions. It’s important that one understands the pain of losing your near ones. Anyways, can you let us know what happened on that day?
Rubi: This is happening for quite some time now. Always four or five people will come. They will charge bombs, and threaten us. On 23rd they set fire in one of the houses. We could not identify them because they were concealing their faces under black cloth. However, the situation improved as the festive season was over. We usually sat just outside our home, mostly, we stayed inside since the situation was never completely peaceful. On that day, we were sitting outside. My husband has a heart disease and he needed some open air. So, me, two kids, and my nephew were sitting there. Suddenly someone threw a bomb. There was fire, smoke and a huge sound. I have never experienced something like that ever in my life. I do not know who charged the bomb. However, it is clear that someone did that from a close proximity but I could not see him. My husband was hit on his head and he fell down. That moment I could not even see if my kids were alright! I was also injured but I didn’t feel anything at that moment. I immediately ran to pull him, only to see that his head was split up into three or perhaps four pieces. I lost my consciousness. People came to rescue us and when I regained consciousness I came to know that my husband had died. This is what we know. I was admitted to the hospital for a couple of days. I was admitted on the 12th at Apollo. Kids were admitted to the National Medical College Hospital. The elder one was injured on his stomach and on his leg. My younger son has lost his eyesight.
AAMRA: When did your husband die?
Rubi: Immediately, on the spot.
AAMRA: Incidents such as this have ever happened here before?
Rubi: Now it happens regularly. Goons come and throw bombs from that crossing. They wear vests and half pants. They usually charge bombs from a distance. We always rush back inside our homes immediately. They usually charge bombs twice a day. We could never find out who they are, from where they come. They always wear a black cloth to conceal their identity, and we cannot really find out who they actually are. They usually come at around 10:00 – 10:30 in the night.
AAMRA: Did they come on motorcycles?
Rubi: No, they come walking just like common people . Always come from that field. Hindus of this place follow an unwritten rule of abandoning the place within 7:00 pm. A few families of Muslims used to spend some time outside the home, but we cannot do this anymore.
AAMRA: Now the police are here, it seems.
Rubi: Police have been here since that day. Otherwise police used to come after a bomb is charged. If someday bombing is not done, they used to come and pick up people at random. They used to tell us to go inside. We used to follow their instructions. However, since that incident 10 – 12 police personnel are posted here permanently.
AAMRA: Is it a fact that despite police picketing the bombing is continuing?
Rubi: We are getting the news that bombing is going on, but it is not happening here. I came back here only the day after yesterday. I was not here for the last 10 days.
AAMRA: Where did you go?
Rubi: I went to stay at my brother’s place along with the kids.
AAMRA: Now that police security is here, do you feel safe?
Rubi: How can we stay back here? My husband has died, kids are not willing to stay here because of trauma.
AAMRA: Your elder son has got a job now, right?
AAMRA: Where did he get the job?
Rubi: Somewhere in Kolkata. I am yet to see. I don’t know what type of job it is. I have just been discharged and I have to go to Apollo hospital and my younger son has to go to Disha eye Hospital for treatment.
AAMRA: Which class does your younger son study now?
Rubi: Class eight
AAMRA: What is your name (to the younger son)?
Tabrej: Tabrej Alam
AAMRA: What is the name of your school?
Tabrej: Anglo Indian High School (in a low voice)
AAMRA: Do you go to school or it is still closed?
Tabrej: Its now open (in a little clear voice)
AAMRA: Do you go?
Tabrej: No (in a very low voice), but I want to go.
AAMRA: He must be send to school (looking at his mother)
Rubi: They are saying they will help me admit him to a school but nothing has been done yet. We will not stay at this place. We will go somewhere else. Our home is right on the main street, I can’t stay with the kids here alone.
AAMRA: How long are you living here?
Rubi: For a very long time. At least 15 – 16 years. My husband built this house here.
AAMRA: Have you seen Hindu-Muslim riot here before?
Rubi: Never. This is the first time. My husband never participated in politics. He was a retired person. He had a small shop. Party-politics has been here for quite some time now, but something like this has never happened before. He was a heart patient. We have been treating him since 2000. On that day, he had come back from the hospital. We came from Bidhannagar Hospital after visiting a doctor. He was telling the doctor that “doctor saab, when the bombing goes on I feel tense and uncomfortable”. I remember the doctor telling him to stay safe. We came back around 4:00 in the afternoon and the event happened around 10:30 in the night.
AAMRA: How do the kids respond to that incident now? We cannot even imagine!
Rubi: They are constantly thinking about that incident. The incident is not going to go away so quickly. When I was admitted in the hospital for 8 – 10 days, I could not hear anything in my ears. They also could not hear anything. They didn’t even drink water for a couple of days.
Md. Mustaq was the second victim of the 10 June, 2019 attack. We can’t meet his family. They had left for Baruipara when we went there. Imtiag Ali, son of deceased Mustaq, have returned from Dubai, he talked with Sandip Sinha Roy, our friend and team member. This is what we said :
Tension started after the election. To create a fearful atmosphere bombs were thrown. Wearing black face mask group of people threatened and said ‘go back to Pakistan’. “Why will we go there? This is also our land”, he said.
He also said that at present there is restriction on sanctioning of new plan for building construction. He suspects that this murder is also a plan to create a ‘Muslim free’ areas to make big buildings.
Rajesh Shaw received a gun shot on his stomach. His one arm was chopped off (some claimed he lost his hand in an accidental bomb explosion which blew his hand away). He was taken to the hospital but he could not survive.
He used to stay inside a narrow alleyway, in a quarter inside Shramik Bastee (labour colony). He was a bachelor. His married brother and sister-in-law also stayed there. His brother is a permanent jute mill worker, but Rajesh Shaw was a contractual labour. When we reached his house, his sister-in-law was there. She was hesitant initially, but when her neighbours encouraged her, she started to open up. During the discussion, Rajesh Shaw’s sister’s son was also present. We came to know that Rajesh Shaw’s parents had died years ago.
AAMRA: Which state do you originally belong to?
Rajesh Shaw’s Sister-in-law: I don’t remember. We have been here since our birth.
AAMRA: No, we want to know your history of migration, where did your previous generation lived?
Rajesh Shaw’s Sister-in-law: Some village in Bihar, I don’t recall the name of the district.
Vijay Rajak: They do not want to disclose such identity and they want to put an emphasis on the fact that they belong to this state.
AAMRA: Please tell us about that day.
Sister-in-law: The riot started after 19th May. Bombs were being exploded, common people did not venture out. Many Hindu households in Naya Bazar were looted. The goons of Kamarhati under the leadership of Madan Mitra (TMC candidate against Arjun Singh of BJP) started exploding bombs again on 22nd. They came dressed in police uniforms. Everyone started to flee. People even started to run away from their houses. Many entered the jute mill to save their life. Rajesh had a bullet injury around 12:00 in the night. People were carrying him on their shoulder and were trying to escape. The goons started shooting and bombing at them. They left Rajesh and started to run. When the goons saw Rajesh lying in a corner they chopped off his hand with a Bhojali (short sword). Police took him to hospital.
AAMRA: Where did they find him?
Sister-in-law: See, they found him outside the Mosque. He was hit near the mill gate. It was around 12:00 in the night. Every single man of this ‘line basti’ (slum) took shelter inside the mill. Many people couldn’t enter. He was one of them. Before he could enter the guard closed the gate. He lost a lot of blood. It is very clear that they aimed at killing him. He has also given a statement that he was killed by the Kamarhati goons. They were in police uniform. But in the morning around 7:00 police informed us that Rajesh Shaw got killed as a bomb he attempted to throw blew away his hand. We know (believe) that the police have changed the statement. You can ask anyone, he was quite a simple gentleman.
AAMRA: Did you get a copy of the postmortem report? Is it written there that he died because of a bomb explosion?
Sister-in-law: Yes, we got a copy, but we know the report was prepared according to police instruction.
AAMRA: How did you know that the police had changed the statement?
Sister-in-law: Some of my friends were there. Even there is video footage available with the press (media) that he was completely conscious while being taken away to the hospital.
AAMRA: Goons from Kamarhati and the Police were together? Are you sure?
Sister-in-law: Yes, they were together. Police were with them.
AAMRA: All of them were from Kamarhati?
Sister-in-law: Of course there were locals involved. Otherwise, how could they identify our location? No one from outside can actually manage to enter, identify and go out of these maze-like alleyways.
AAMRA: Yes, true, we can understand that.
Sister-in-law: Let me tell you. There was a poster of Shri Narendra Modi outside, on the wall of our house. I don’t know who pasted it. I think this is why they targeted us. They were kicking on our main door. If they had managed to enter inside, I am sure they would have captured us all (Rajesh Shaw’s brother, sister-in-law, their child and his sister’s son). We were pushing with all our strength from the inside.
AAMRA: Are you BJP supporter?
Sister-in-law: See, we are people struggling to meet daily needs. We work and earn our bread.
AAMRA: No no, let us clarify; being a BJP supporter is of course not a crime.
Sister-in-law: See, I gave my vote for the betterment of my country. I never thought that something like this would happen to us.
AAMRA: What is the name of this place?
Sister-in-law: Sadar line
AAMRA: What is the Hindu-Muslim population percentage of this place? Do you know that?
Sister-in-law: This area is a Hindu area. There is Darma line nearby, which is a Muslim area.
AAMRA: They used to come to your place and you also use to go to their place regularly, right?
Sister-in-law: Yes, we go to each other’s place.
AAMRA: Can you tell us who made the identification on that day?
Sister-in-law: Local people.
AAMRA: Who are the locals?
Sister-in-law: Local Muslims. Police was there with them
AAMRA: What do you think, tension will be mounted again?
Sister-in-law: See, we do not want any trouble. But the police don’t want us to live in peace. They come in the night and only pick us up. They came even yesterday night. About 30 police personnel. We, the local women gheraoed them. They came and picked up a few boys and promised us that they will release them in the morning at 10:00. But they are yet to do so.
AAMRA: Who was controlling the police at that time? Wasn’t it the Election Commission?
Sister-in-law: Yes, probably!
AAMRA: Yes, because we were told in the Muslim locality that the police under Election Commission has tortured them.
Sister-in-law: Sir, It doesn’t matter whom the police force worked under, they have tortured us.
AAMRA: When Arjun Singh was a TMC candidate, whom did you cast your vote for?
Sister-in-law: We used to vote TMC. But Sir, change is needed. Earlier CPIM was there. People wanted to change it, so we had a change. Now, again we are thinking of a change… We changed for the better. They have become worse than CPIM. Mamata is so atrocious that people are going against her.
(During this conversation a few neighbours entered her room. One of them, Mantu Singh said that he was also there inside the jute mill.)
Rajak: We have heard that they even entered inside the mill to beat people up. Tell us about it.
Sister-in-law: Yes, they forcibly entered the mill. The gatekeeper didn’t open the gate so they started pushing him to such an extent that he had no choice but to open the gate. If he would have kept the gate locked they would have smashed it.
Mantu Singh: That day all of us went inside the mill gate by 10:00 in the night. They came around 1:00 in the night. Muslims had teamed up with police. They beat up the gatekeeper to such an extent that he had his hand swelled. The gatekeeper switched off the light. They ordered him to turn on the lights. The gatekeeper told them that the people in the power house have left and he doesn’t know the switch. Someone from the gang said, the powerhouse has 24 hours standby staff. Now, this information is only available to the mill people. Police also asked the gatekeeper to switch on the lights. He did that. We started to run for our life. Those who could run could save themselves. The rest were beaten up mercilessly (others in the crowd supported this statement). Administration and goons were together. The goons were also wearing police uniforms. At least 600 to 700 people had taken shelter there.
AAMRA: Let us say something. We have seen that two Muslims were also killed. Many Muslim family’s houses were also looted. It’s not that only Hindus were affected.
Everyone from the crowd: Yes, Sir. Both sides have suffered.
AAMRA: Something like this has never happened here before. Even Muslims are also saying that there were local people who spearheaded the conflict. What is your take on this?
Everyone from the crowd: Yes, we are staying here for generations. We participate in their Eid, we construct the pandals. Now they have poisoned our relationship. We are yet to resume normal lives.
AAMRA: Who are these locals? Are they from the political parties?
Sister-in-law: That I don’t know!
AAMRA: No,we mean to say, you people are from the locality. Do you know them?
Sister-in-law: The situation is so polarized that now Hindu means BJP and Muslim means TMC. Someone wearing a skull cap is TMC! They came here and targeted us because our house has a poster of Narendra Modi. We went for my sister’s marriage, how can we know who has stuck that poster?
Rajak: The mill remained open?
Sister-in-law: The owner kept it open, but no labour turned up. Work was stopped for about 7 days.
AAMRA: We have a puzzle. You people have been fighting together for different issues against the mill owner. You are staying together for so long. Yet, a riot of this magnitude could take place! How could this happen?
Everyone: There is no impact of trade unions on our daily life.
AAMRA: But both Hindus and Muslims work in the mill together. What is the condition now? You people have talking terms with them?
Sister-in-law: Yes, it’s not that we do not talk with each other. We always talk to the educated people. Many Miyas (meaning Muslim) work in our department. We have a good relationship. We do not have any relationship with the rioters. But for the rest, we even eat together. There is no difference inside the mill.
AAMRA: Anyone from the government came to help you out after this incident?
Sister-in-law: They said that the government will give Rs. 10 lakhs and a government job to someone from the family. However, nothing has happened so far.
AAMRA: Anyone from the state government came to meet you?
Sister-in-law: No, not a single person, not for a single day.
AAMRA: We went to Md. Halim’s home. His son has got a job from the state government. Nothing like this happened with you?
Sister-in-law: No, this is how they are dividing between the Hindu and Muslim. They are doing it for the Muslims only.
AAMRA: Similarly, Arjun Singh didn’t go and meet the Muslims.
Sister-in-law: Sir, may be.. How can we know what they are up to? They all belong to power politics.
Rajak: They will come and play dirty political games and common people will die. They will roast their bread on the communal fire, will sit and eat together!
Ram Babu aka Rohit Shaw
Teenaged Ram Babu died on Kachhari road. He had a bullet injury. He was about 17 – 18 years old. According to his aunt (father’s brother’s wife), Munita Shaw, his father passed away and his mother is mentally challenged. She took away the dead body. She complained that after his injury he was unattended for about 40 minutes.
AAMRA: Can you tell us about that day?
Munita Shaw: We stay together. We took him to the hospital. The doctors declared him dead. Police did the postmortem and handed his body to us in the evening.
AAMRA: What was he doing there?
Munita Shaw: The bombing started around 10 in the morning in Bhatpara. I went to drop my daughter to her school. He said that he will bring Kachori (snack) for breakfast. He used to sell phuchka. He needed to buy a few items for that too. I went to the school; Ram Babu went to buy those items. As I reached the crossing I was informed that the school has been declared as closed. It was closed because of the ongoing bombing. I came back. I was crossing at one side of the road, he was crossing the road at another side, meanwhile he got hit by a bullet… not one, but five.
AAMRA: bullet fired by the police?
Munita Shaw: Yes. Bombing was going on at one side; police were firing from the other side. I was running to get him, Police stopped me. They told me if I go I might get struck by a bullet as well. A Punjabi person sells Singara there. He stopped me. After a while the police came. I pleaded with them to take Ram Babu to hospital. They took him.
AAMRA: What did the police say to stop you?
Munita Shaw: They said, don’t come or we will shoot. I could only go there after 20 to 30 minutes. They were shooting aimlessly. There is a juice seller nearby, he also received one bullet. Even as I was taking him to hospital, they were shooting. In front of me they fired 4 to 5 rounds.
AAMRA: Which means they were shooting down innocent people?
Munita Shaw: No, they (rioters) were hurling bombs at each other. But on the street police were also firing to stop the mob, but they were firing on innocent people. People, who were buying Kachuri or drinking juice were fired at.
AAMRA: Anyone from the administration came to your house after his death?
Munita Shaw: Many people came. Ahluwaliya came from Delhi, Arjun Singh came and many others also came. I don’t know everyone.
AAMRA: Did the SDO or BDO come?
Munita Shaw: Yes they also came.
AAMRA: They have extended any help?
Munita Shaw: They said, see, who has died has died. We cannot return him. We can give 10 lakh rupees and a government job, so that you can run the family in a decent way.
AAMRA: Have you received anything till date?
Munita Shaw: They have paid Rs. 2.5 lakh and a given temporary job at the Municipality. Ram Babu’s elder brother has joined there.
AAMRA: How many brothers and sisters did he have?
Munita Shaw: Three sisters and two brothers.
AAMRA: How long are you staying here in West Bengal?
Munita Shaw: I was born here. I am married here too.
AAMRA: He used to sell phuchka only, or used to work in some shop as well?
Munita Shaw: He used to sell phuchka only, but for about a month he had started to work in a shop. Since there was a riot for ten days, he stopped selling phuchka. We told him not to go out.
AAMRA: Have you seen this sort of riot ever before?
Munita Shaw: No, never here.
AAMRA: Where did you stay before marriage?
Munita Shaw: Hazinagar.
AAMRA: We remember Hajinagar has faced a riot in 2017.
Munita Shaw: Yes, it happened there. But this for the first time we are witnessing a riot in Kankinara.
AAMRA: You now have a tailoring shop…
Munita Shaw: What to do, we have to feed the kids. We had an electrical goods shop. We could not continue that business. Ram Babu used to earn, he is no more!
AAMRA: Will there be riot again?
Munita Shaw: How can we say? Now we feel the Hindu-Muslim unity is there. But, you know politics. What kind of games they can play!
AAMRA: Who is compensating the victim families? State Government or the Central government?
Munita Shaw: State government, I mean Arjun Singh!
AAMRA: No, then it might be from the center.
Munita Shaw: The money came from Arjun Singh’s account.
AAMRA: Are you afraid of staying here?
Munita Shaw: Even if there is some common sound we become afraid that bombing has started again. Kids do not eat properly. Even if there is a small sound, they start crying saying “Mummy, they will bomb again!” If you were staying here you would have been afraid too.
AAMRA: Do you continue to have relationships with local Muslims?
Munita Shaw: Yes, why not! Now that Eid is nearby, I am sewing clothes for them. Can we do business if we constantly judge people as being Muslim or Hindu?
Someone in the shop: The problem started during the election. It was basically the conflict between two leaders, a political conflict. Later on they pushed in the Hindu-Muslim issue. Nowadays we are extremely busy in our daily life, who has the time to do active politics?
After the conversation was over, we met with Munita Shaw’s daughters. They are studying and at the same time helping her mother to run the shop. Her elder daughter studies in a college.
We were walking to meet Dharambir Shaw’s family, another deceased person in the riot. On our way we crossed Shaw Samaj Trust, where local women took shelter during the conflict. Many people stayed inside Kankinara High school.
We had a talk with Krishna Shaw, Dharambir’s elder brother. They have phuchka as their family business. We were talking inside the phuchka making unit. Initially he showed his irritation to talk with ‘media persons’, but after clarification from our side he showed his modest behavior. He was unwilling to introduce Dharambir’s widow with us.
AAMRA: Everyone here seems to sell phuchka?
Krishna Shaw: 5-6 families do so. But there are members within the family who work in the government sector or in the jute mill. However, our family business is selling phuchka. We belong to the Other Backward Classes.
AAMRA: How old was he?
Krishna Shaw: He was 41.
AAMRA: What happened on that day?
Krishna Shaw: How many times do I need to say the same story again? What is the point of saying? They need a job, otherwise how can their family survive? (He showed prominent signs of irritation)
AAMRA: How many family members are there?
Krishna Shaw: A son, a daughter and Dharambir’s wife.
AAMRA: Have you received any help?
Krishna Shaw: Yes, Arjin Singh has helped. He gave a job in the casual worker section in Bhatpara Municipality. He has also arranged for the education of the kids in Kendriya Vidyalaya. No one else has done anything more. I was told that the family will get Rs. 10 lakh, of which only 2.5 lakh has been received so far. Only the media people visit repeatedly and give us false assurance. People just come and go, they do not do anything.
AAMRA: Did he die on the spot?
Krishna Shaw: He went to bring juice for his son.
(That boy was standing at the time)
AAMRA: What is your name?
Boy: Sujan, and my sister is Natasa.
AAMRA: Which school?
Boy: Kankinara High school.
AAMRA: Tell us what happened next (to Krishna Shaw)?
Krishna Shaw: I got the news that he was injured. We were frying phuchka. We ran out and reached Bhatpara State General Hospital. We took him to Apollo hospital, Kolkata, but we could not save him. He had a bullet stuck in his stomach.
AAMRA: Did he have any chance for survival?
Rajak: They didn’t allow people to take the body initially.
Krishna Shaw: See, I really do not know. When I reached the hospital, I found that four to five people were carrying him towards the hospital.
AAMRA: What did the police say about the firing?
Rajak: Police claimed that they were hurling bombs and they asked them to stop. Since, they didn’t stop they fired.
Krishna Shaw: Can this happen? Police said something and since they disobeyed they fired! If my child is not listening to me should I shoot?
AAMRA: When did this happen?
Krishna Shaw: On the same day the new police station was inaugurated. It was 20th June. What more can I say, brother! I don’t feel good. We are facing all the problems.
AAMRA: Yes, quite natural. We can understand that.
Krishna Shaw: During election they will come and make big promises, but at the time of crisis they will not come.
AAMRA: Police came?
Krishna Shaw: Yes, they did. But what will they do?
AAMRA: Aren’t people angry with the police force?
Krishna Shaw: Yes, people are angry with the police.
AAMRA: Police do the patrolling?
Krishna Shaw: Initially they used to come, for now they have stopped coming.
AAMRA: Do you think that tension will increase further?
Krishna Shaw: How can we say that? We want everyone to live peacefully. Our sales have also fallen down significantly.
AAMRA: Do you recall any conflict of this magnitude?
Krishna Shaw: Earlier it was between political parties, now it is Hindu vs Muslim. It was not there earlier.
AAMRA: Do you go to the Muslim area? Do you feel scared going there?
Krishna Shaw: Yes, we go! They also come. Can you really stay like that? But, you know there is a different feeling now. There is a scary feeling deep inside our mind. I am Hindu they are Muslims… but we really do not want to harm each other.
AAMRA: Did you find this kind of problem earlier too?
Krishna Shaw: No, it started with the election. It started with the party conflict.
AAMRA: We have heard that there were outsiders and locals as well. Do you have any idea who they were?
Krishna Shaw: No, we have heard that they came in police uniform and beat common people up. They were wearing police uniforms but didn’t have the boots, but slippers. These kinds of things prove that they were not police. It is a political issue. You know we Hindus don’t even have a knife at home. If some guests arrive, we often borrow knives from our neighbours!
Rajak: See, for Qurbani Muslims need a Chapati (a sword), these people, I mean the Hindus do not have them. He is trying to say that.
AAMRA: Do you think that Hindus are weak?
Krishna Shaw: No, I have not felt that. Now we are prepared. Muslims stay nearby. This kind of thing never happened before.
AAMRA: What happened to alter this dynamic?
Krishna Shaw: See, we don’t have any internal problem. The problem has been imposed by outside people.
AAMRA: Now, the two communities are comfortable with each other?
Krishna Shaw: See, once something is broken, it never gets repaired completely. Things are changing gradually. Tomorrow they have Qurbani Eid, after a couple of days later we have the Rakhsa Bandhan festival. No one wants a conflict. A conflict earns a dividend only to the political parties. There is a section of people who always want to loot things. They are always pushing for some kind of trouble. See, I have lost my brother, that kid has lost his father. The person who loses knows the impact. My brother’s dreams remain unfulfilled.
AAMRA: Did you see party cadres or goons dressed in police uniform?
Krishna Shaw: No, I was not there, I have heard it.
AAMRA: You were talking on preparedness, Hindus are now prepared. What type of preparation have you done?
Krishna Shaw: They cannot harm us now. I cannot say more than that.
Prabhu Shaw came from Delhi to spend his holidays. He has three daughters. He was killed in a police firing. His wife Shyamali Sau was there and we talked to her. Her four daughters, viz., Sanjana, Ranjana, Vaishnabi and Varsha were there when we had the following conversation.
AAMRA: Please tell us about the day of the incident?
Shyamali Shaw: A riot was going on, he was inside the room. Suddenly he ran and got a bullet injury. He tried to run seeing the police force.
AAMRA: Since he was at home, why did he try to run?
Shyamali Shaw: He was not inside the room, but standing nearby. He reached at the backside of the alleyway. Then he was running on a roof, and suddenly a bullet struck him on his foot. He jumped on another roof. It was made of asbestos and hence it broke down. He fell inside the house. Police fired on his head and chest.
AAMRA: Did you lodge a complaint with the police?
Shyamali Shaw: Yes, we have complained. Nothing has happened till date. He died on 12th July. On the 13th the police handed over his body to us. It happened in broad daylight.
AAMRA: What was his occupation?
Shyamali Shaw: We stay in Delhi. He used to work there. We came here for the holiday. He used to work as a boring worker.
AAMRA: Have you ever felt that something like this can happen?
Shyamali Shaw: No, I have never thought that something like this might happen to us.
AAMRA: You have received the death certificate?
Shyamali Shaw: No, we have submitted the documents to the municipality to get the death certificate.
AAMRA: Why did he try to run?
Shyamali Shaw: Actually, he was standing. Suddenly, everyone started to run, he too tried to run.
AAMRA: Do you think that he was targeted?
Shyamali Shaw: How can I know? You can actually find out.
AAMRA: Was he associated with any particular political party?
Shyamali Shaw: No.
AAMRA: Any one from the administration came to meet you?
Shyamali Shaw: No
AAMRA: Arjun Singh came?
Shyamali Shaw: No, but he sent us some help.
AAMRA: Have you got the ten lakh rupees as compensation?
Shyamali Shaw: No, we have not received anything like that
Rajak: We have heard that they will extend help, but till now they have not recieved any.
AAMRA: Is it because they used to stay away in Delhi?
Rajak: May be.
For Vijay Rajak, most of the people killed are not the rioters. Especially, if you look, none of these people have any past history of being involved in crime. Now, everything here is becoming communal. Many incidents of violence took happened at places where a Hindu area ends and a Muslim area begins, like that of a border. Madan Mitra actually brought goons, and this has made things even worse.
We visited the most recent victim of the conflict, Lala Chowdhury. He had a puchka stall at Naihati railway station. He was unmarried. They were three brothers, two of them died within three months. His mother Kajal Chowdhury and father Birju Chowdhury were there in their home. Lala Chowdhury’s little brother died because of his notorious drinking habit which probably damaged his lever. They stay inside a small room which gets flooded whenever there is rain.
AAMRA: When did it happen?
Birju Chowdhury: On 2nd July. He went to open his shop at Naihati. Sometimes, he stays back there. But that happens rarely. On that day he didn’t come back. We thought he might have stayed back. I work in the jute mill. We were worried. Around 1:00 am we went to bed and thought that he might have stayed back for some reason. On the next day his mother and my wife went to Naihati station. The shop owner adjacent to his stall said “aunty he left yesterday… also told that he actually has left a bit early.”
AAMRA: Didn’t he call up?
Birju Chowdhury: We don’t have a phone. I told him not to take a short-cut which he usually takes. Since the riot started, we specifically told him to avoid that short-cut road which is adjacent to the railway track beside the temple of goddess Shani, near Baria patti. What to do, it was his bad luck! He was coming by that road, I am sure they must have caught him on his way back.
AAMRA: That area…
Kajal Chowdhury: That is a Muslim area. His body was found there but his head was found somewhere else. The head was found in Hasnabad. Then it went to Barasat (She started to cry and we stopped the conversation, a heavy feeling engulfed all of us)
AAMRA: Which means the head was chopped off from the body?
Rajak: The killer actually wrapped the head in a newspaper and put it in a basket. The basket was placed on a train boggy.
Birju Chowdhury: The train went to the car-shed (garage) and then to Hasnabad and finally at Barasat. When I went to identify the body, two police officers held me saying “Uncle you have to be strong’, I was like “What more to see, my son is missing.” They took me to Barasat. I could identify my son by seeing his feet. Nothing else to see. I was roaming around for six and half hours… I am sure they have chopped off his head by using a machine.
Rajak: Not a single drop of blood was found… they actually have cleaned everything.
AAMRA: What did the police say? Hope they didn’t say that he died of a railway accident?
Birju Chowdhury: No no, there is no way one can say that…
[Kajal Chowdhury was sobbing, and it was very difficult for us to continue the conversation at that moment, Bijay Rajak continued the conversation]
Rajak: What was chopped off?
Birju Chowdhury: They detached his head below the neck. Police were saying that they had tortured him before killing. I was sure that this chopping off cannot be done by anyone other than the Muslims… My son died because of communal reasons. Everyone was saying that whoever has done that is a Muslim.
AAMRA: How do you know that?
Birju Chowdhury: The kind of precision they have shown while cutting his head is available only with the professional butchers. It cannot be done by Hindus. There is a butcher’s den nearby.
Rajak: I have heard that they have chopped off his private parts too? Is it true?
Birju Chowdhury: Yes, they had chopped off everything… There was nothing left in his private parts, but there were no other cut marks in any other part of his body.
Rajak: Where did you find the body?
Birju Chowdhury: Beside the railway track, there is an open field. The body was found there.
AAMRA: How could they keep the head on a train? Does a train stop there?
Birju Chowdhury: Yes, trains do stop at the station. There is a school nearby. There is also a place where you can find people taking drugs.
AAMRA: Did you file any FIR?
Birju Chowdhury: Yes, we have, but the police have done nothing. Police have filed an FIR spontaneously.
AAMRA: Did he have any kind of enmity with anyone?
Birju Chowdhury: No, you ask anyone how Lala was. Naihati market was even closed for a day because of his death. I used to beat him up but he never protested. There is a water tap nearby. He used to take bath there. He used to go there when everyone was done… the only time he used to go out when he had to bring the tamarind for Phuchka.
AAMRA: Anyone from the government came to meet you?
Birju Chowdhury: Pavan Singh came.
AAMRA: What did he say?
Birju Chowdhury: See, he was not involved with any kind of political parties. He was busy in his own business. He used to buy Phuchka. We used to cook peas and potatoes for him. He was killed by the Muslims…, the murder of my son is an effect of the kind of communal tension going on.
AAMRA: Hindus have also killed the Muslims …
Birju Chowdhury: Yes they [the Muslims] have bombed them [the police]. Police are arresting the Muslims and Mamata Banerjee is calling the police and instructing them to release them. Police itself has said this. Ajay Thakur has also said that. I said to the police that if you want you can actually clean them within two hours. Viswa Hindu Parishad can also do that. They are not allowing anyone to clean this area.
Rajak: No, that will be illegal.
Birju Chowdhury: Manoj Varma came, he was a good officer, but he was transferred.
AAMRA: Did you get something from the government?
Birju Chowdhury: No, nothing yet. No one from the State government has come, accept the police. Pavan Singh came, that’s it. Now, we only have our youngest son. He works in the jute mill as a casual worker.
AAMRA: Was he married?
Birju Chowdhury: No, he was not married. He said that I should get my daughters married first then he can go for marriage. They (the daughters) have been married in good families in Bardhaman. Police wanted to interrogate them as well. I have told them strictly not to do that. I was very angry. Why should they interrogate them?
AAMRA: How did this conflict start?
Birju Chowdhury: It started on Ram Navami. It escalated when Madan Mitra came here. He went through this road (showing the adjacent main road of his house). He was beaten up by the ladies from a school. From then onwards the problem started. He has anger on this place since then,
AAMRA: Why did the ladies beat him?
Birju Chowdhury: He used slang language. It happened on the 19th.
AAMRA: You just talked about Viswa Hindu Parishad, that they can clean them up? How is it possible?
Birju Chowdhury: Possible, just give them a chance.
(to be continued)