The communal violence in Telinipara in Hooghly district of West Bengal occurred amidst the raging pandemic during the lockdown in early May 2020. Everyone knows there was unrest, conflict and communal violence. But what actually happened in Telinipara? What triggered the violence and what are its immediate and far-reaching effects? This is the second report by Aamra— a study group on Conflict and Coexistence, of their post-RamNavami riots in West Bengal. The English version of the first report on Bhatpara was published in GroundXero in six parts. We are now publishing the full report on conflict and violence in Telinipara in parts. This is the third part of the fact finding report.
Fact Finding Report on Telinipara, 2020
Face-to-face with tears and sufferings
In fact, just after the first episode of violence, a fact-finding team of Aamra went to Telinipara. The first visit was on May 11, 2020 and the last visited on September 20, 2020. In more than four months, our team talked to different people at least 18 times. Despite this, we were not able to reach all the victims of the riots, this is our failure. Despite our efforts, many did not open their mouth before us, we could not prove our credibility to them, this too is our lacking. Many people talked to our team but they did not want to reveal their names, we respect their decision. Here are glimpses of the reality we faced.
Those who lost a lot in the riots
- Anita Kumari Paswan
We talked to her on June 3, 2020, at 11 o’clock in the morning. At that time, work was going on to repair a burnt Hindu slum. Pannalal Sahu, BJP councillor from Ward No. 13, was supervising the reconstruction work.
Anita – Listen, I’m talking about what happened here. At around 11 in the morning, while we were cooking, they started hurling bottles from above, (pointing to a four-storey house behind). The bottles were filled with petrol. On seeing this, all of us, from young to old, we just started running away. We could not save anything. There was 40,000 rupees in cash in my house from the Mandi (agricultural market). It burnt in the fire. Look at the condition of my sewing machine, look at all the things in my house, everything is burnt … no one is giving us anything … we had three rooms … How much did I get! 5,000 rupees after a lot of pleading. Father suffered a leg injury while fetching food from the school. Where will we go now, provide treatment to father or rebuild the house? (Crying)
Aamra – Who caused this damage?
Anita – I don’t know them by face. Bombs were thrown from Selim’s house. At that time, we ran away and saved ourselves rather than wait to see their faces. Now I can’t dare to say anyone’s name.
Aamra – Why did all this happen? Was there any tension in the neighbourhood? Did you feel anything?
Anita – I couldn’t understand anything, why it happened all of a sudden. If we had any inkling we would have removed the household items or not? I am now 22-24 years old, and have never seen such conflict since I was a child. Look at all these important documents, brass utensils for Chat Puja, all burnt. Who will give compensation for so many things?
- Asma Firdaus
Aamra – Tell us what happened on that day?
Asma – Hey, the entire house was set on fire.
Aamra – Were they local people?
Asma – How do I know? Their faces were all tied up in saffron cloth.
Aamra – How many were there?
Asma – (Shows a house with her finger) All were standing there. 10-12 people attacked my house. There were many things in the house. Things for my daughter’s wedding.
Aamra – What does your husband do?
Asma – My husband is a Maulana. We have a readymade garments business. My eldest daughter is an engineer. She works at Infosys. Her name is Arju Firdaus.\
- Sarwari Bibi, Line No. 3, Paikpara
We have become like street beggars. Not even a glass or a bowl is left. Everything we had was set on fire or looted from the house. Our door was closed. We were inside. The fire was set after we got out and fled.
The house was gutted completely. Have just started rebuilding it. It was like a flat field. Now we have only old clothes donated to us to wear. This house, the next one besides it, all the houses were burnt. I got only 8000 rupees as compensation from the government. The incident happened on 12th. Fire was set around half past where I am.
I am repairing the house with my own money. What happens with the government’s 8,000 rupees? At present we have no money. We don’t even have a plate and bowl. How will we eat rice? I am wearing these old clothes donated by other people. We fled empty handed. We are living in a school during this period. What can we do! Not even a glass left for breakfast.
Now I have started repairing the house, so I come here during the day time. Will leave again at night. How can we stay here? There is no electricity. No lights, no fan. Eating, drinking everything now is at school. It is not possible to stay here at present. I wonder how we will live.
We wrote an application. Gave a list of things that have been damaged. But it didn’t work. They didn’t accept the application. Said these will not be received here.
All these boys helped us. Latif’s son. They all came at night and took us out. MD Arman and Nayeem Bhai were present. They are civic police. Imam Uddin and Arman — they were in front. They led all of us out from here to safety. After we got out of here the rioters came and burnt the houses. Otherwise we would have died in the house.
I got married in 1970. 53-54 years have passed. I have never seen anything like this. It happened once in 2001. But it was not like this. We haven’t seen such a thing.
- Salma Bibi (name changed)
Aamra – Will you say something?
Salma Bibi– I had just come out after taking a bath. Two-three bombs went off in Telinipara. The police were standing there. The police were welcoming them … come in brother!
They had everything in their hands — Pistols, bombs. There was nothing in our house that could resist. My brothers couldn’t stop them.
Aamra – From where did the people come from?
Salma Bibi – Hindus came from all over. They came from Malapara, Tina Bazar, Urdibazar. Arjun Singh organised this thing.
Aamra – We also heard that Arjun Singh’s men had entered…
Salma Bibi– Yes, they entered after crossing the river, in the darkness of the night. They came from Srirampur also. He brought about 150 people.
Aamra – Have you suffered any losses?
Salma Bibi– Yes, I suffered. Tell me, where can we go with these small children?
She then took us to see her damaged house. She began to talk again
There is no place to even sit, no shelter for my kids. We were staying in a school, there was a lot of chaos there. So we left.
- A woman from Salahuddin’s Family (in an alley beside the meat shop on GT Road)
I have been here for many years, things like this have never happened. This is the first time … Even neighbours didn’t come to help us on that day. At half past twelve, I was about to take a bath after cooking was done, my son-in-law came and said there was a fire. We screamed run, run, scaled the boundary wall and fled to save us. The children are terrified since that day, they don’t want to stay here anymore. They have gone to their grandmother’s home. One of them is a 5-6 year old child, the other one is just a 6 month old baby.
Aamra – The child is probably very scared?
Woman – Yes, he saw everything, he can understand. If we bring him here, he says if we stay here, it will happen again. He wakes up crying in his sleep, and screams, take me away from here, I will not stay here. His father tries to calm him down. He says “I will give you a mobile phone, I will buy you this and that.” But the child kept saying, “No, I will not take anything, just take me from here”. He also has school exams in front of him, but all his books are ruined. What will he do!
Aamra – Which Exams will he give?
Female – Higher Secondary.
Aamra – Which child is this?
Woman – This is our other child, he is the elder one. Admit card, previous exams results – everything is burnt. He studies in Gandhi School. The school gave them rice, even that rice was burnt.
Aamra – Were you physically assaulted by anyone?
Woman – No, four people came and were kicking on the door, the door was closed, they could not break in. Their faces were all covered. Later (after we fled) the fire brigade, the police were all informed, but no one came. Finally the people from that house in front came in and poured water over the fire.
Aamra – The people from the front house? Are they Muslims or Hindus?
Women – No, they are neither Hindus nor Muslims. They are Bengalis. We were wondering where to go. That Bangali Babu took all of us out from here, they even doused the fire by pouring water.
Aamra – You are all saying that nothing of this sort has ever happened here before?
Woman – That’s what I am saying, it has never happened. It was happening in other areas, suddenly they found out that there are two Muslim houses here … lets burn them. I have been here since my grandfather’s time, we were living together. They come to our weddings. We went to theirs. We go to their shops, they come to ours to buy things. It was going on like this but … then how this happened…
She brought a child near her and said: “They have not been eating lunch since they came here, just asking one thing – how did mother get burnt, what has happened…
Aamra – It (violence) can happen again, what do you think?
Woman – It has happened once. People are scared of it happening again. People don’t know what you have in mind, what I have in mind.
Aamra – Well, have Corona spread here?
Woman – Here, not a single case has been found so far.
- Jhuma Jaiswal
Jhuma Jaiswal, 35, spoke to us standing in front of a completely gutted house in slum No. 1, within 100 meters from the gate of the Victoria Jute Mill.
Jhuma Jaiswal – My husband’s name is Vijay Jaiswal. He is not at home now, he has gone to bring talli (tiles) for repairing the house. On that day around 11 am, bombing was going on. We heard there will be more trouble. Police were present. Police have fully supported them. At least the police who were present here. Ladies were in front and the gents (men) were hurling bombs from behind the ladies. Police were not saying anything to them but when one of us tried to stop them the police were saying ‘move away, move away’.
Aamra – Was this a fight between Political Parties?
Jhuma Jaiswal – No, it’s not between parties, it started because of Corona. They (Muslims) will not test, will not undergo treatment, they will only spread the virus. They are reluctant to go for treatment. This violence hasn’t happened only this year, it took place three years ago also. At that time only my house was set on fire. This time they burnt down about 27-32 homes. Their target is to do this thing again and again so that the Hindu families living here become scared and leave this place. They want to drive us away and take control of the vacant area up till the market.
Aamra – Your house is burnt, where are you staying now? You seem to be in trouble?
Jhuma Jaiswal – We are in trouble. What can be done! We stayed at a relief camp in Shastri School till now, now even the school is telling us to make our own arrangement. How long will they look after us? No one can allow us to live forever.
- Salauddin Ansari
Salauddin’s house and shop is on GT Road in Bhadreswar. On 12 May, organized Hindu rioters looted his shop. The essence of our conversation with him.
Salauddin– My name is Salauddin Ansari. Living in Bengal for a few generations. But suddenly everything turned upside down. The riots started here on 12 May 2020, at 12:45 am. To save his life he locked himself in this house. They were looting. There were so many things in the shop, they looted everything and fled. They set the shop on fire before leaving. They were also kicking on the door of this house, my son and I somehow managed to hold them on. There was a gas cylinder in the house, they saw that cylinder and ran away from fear of the cylinder exploding in the fire.
Aamra – How many people had come?
Salauddin – There were lots of people. To save our lives we ran away to home and locked ourselves in.
Aamra – Was there any familiar face?. Anyone local?
Salauddin – No, we couldn’t see. We had shut the house.
Aamra – How many Muslim houses are there in this area?
Salauddin – There is only one Muslim family in this area. Our family. And there is another meat shop. Their home is in Telinipara.
Aamra – Yes, on Ferry Ghat Street.
Salauddin – And there is a bicycle shop. That shop was also vandalized. But it was not set on fire. The shop belongs to a Bengali. The shutter of the meat shop was broken.
We have a mazar here. It was vandalized too. The Khadem of the mazar had a car — Splendor. It was set on fire on the road. There was a M80 vehicle, it was also damaged. The chest box in the mazar was broken.
Aamra – Mazar of which Pir?
Salauddin – Satya Pir’s mazar.
Aamra – The mazar of Satya Pir. But everyone used to come there. Even Hindus go there?
Salauddin – Everyone comes there. People from all communities — Hindus, Muslims, Madrasis, Oriyas — all.
Aamra – They selectively attacked that mazar. Was this attack anticipated?
Salauddin – No, there was no idea. I’ve been living here for so long, for generations, but this has never happened before. So many big riots had happened before. The riots in 1992 were terrible. But riots never took place in this area. We were all ‘same’.
Aamra – Now you have become the ‘other’ again?
Salauddin Ansari remained silent for a while. Did not answer.
Aamra – How long have you been here?
Salauddin – From British period. For four generations. My father used to work in Chatkal at Bhadreswar Jute Mill.
Aamra – Anyone work there now?
Salauddin – My younger brother, Nizamuddin do. The daily wage was 340 rupees, now it has increased a little, it has become 390 rupees.
Aamra – How many members are there in your family?
Salauddin – We are four brothers. Four wives of four brothers. Three sons and two daughters.
Aamra – Did the political party leaders come after the looting? Anyone from the administration?
Salauddin – Yes, we were helped. Our party also helped.
Aamra – What do you mean by ‘our’ party?
Salauddin – I mean the party has helped our family. People in the neighbourhood also helped us.
Aamra – Who are the neighbours?
Salauddin – The house next to ours, other people in the neighbourhood.
Aamra – Are they Hindu?
Salauddin – They are Hindus. They helped us as human beings.
Aamra – Did any slogans were raised during the attack?
Salauddin – No, slogans were not raised here. There was a lot of commotion. I was teaching my son at home. Suddenly, pelting of bricks and stones began. We came out here from the room (showing the room). There was fire all over. My shop was burned down.
Aamra – Did the attackers have weapons in their hands?
Salauddin – We haven’t seen. When there was a lot of commotion, we locked ourselves in the room with the children. We haven’t seen those people.
Aamra – Who owns the bicycle shop?
Salauddin – Me.
Aamra – Which things got burnt?
Salauddin – All the spare parts in the cycle shop were looted. Everything else was set on fire. They plundered as much as they could. All rubber products were burnt.
Aamra – They didn’t come inside to attack?
Salauddin – They came inside. Entered the inside room, broke open the locker in the room, looted all the jewellery, watches and mobile phones. I thought the phone was burnt. I called on my mobile two days after the riot, it rang. But now it is switched off. I went to lodge a complaint in the police station, but the police are not taking any complaint.
All documents we had were burnt, the police station said they should be written as missing. When I wrote that, they said you have to mention the document number. Tell me how do we get the number? My son will appear for class 12 exams next month, he has no documents for the exam.
Aamra – But things were burned and looted, it can be seen with naked eyes, still police are not taking the FIR?
Salauddin – No FIR is being taken, saying to lodge complaint by mentioning names. We have not seen anyone, how can we name someone?
Aamra – Have you given a written application?
Salauddin – Yes, we have visited the police station many times. It must be at least ten times. But they didn’t take the application. I wrote all the documents were burnt. They said it cannot be written that they were burnt, it must be said that they were lost. I agreed. Then they said you have to give the number of Admit card, registration number. Do we remember those numbers? I went to his school, the teacher said, the school is now on holidays, he asked me to come when it reopens.
Aamra – You said the political leaders came to visit you. Did anyone from the police come to investigate? Or the BDO, SDO to see your condition?
Salauddin – No one came.
Aamra – Have you received any compensation?
Salauddin – The municipality gave eight thousand rupees in the name of financial assistance. Didn’t give anything else.
Aamra – The money they gave means they acknowledge that you have suffered damages, but still they are not taking the complaint?
Salauddin : No, they are not accepting the complaint. The CN channel wrote about me, it was also shown on TV, but the administration is not listening to anything. There has been news reports on this riot and our condition.
Aamra – In whose name is the bicycle shop, is it in your name?
Salauddin – Yes, in my name. I have a trade license. Next to it there is another bicycle shop, he lives in Telenipara, the name of the shop is Star Bicycle, owned by a Muslim. The owner of the meat shop, next to it, also lives in Telinipara.
Aamra – You said this a while ago that they did not loot a Bengali’s shop?
Salauddin – No, it was also vandalised, took out the bicycles and burned everything.
Aamra – The fact that they did not attack the shops of Hindus or Bengalis – there are many in the vicinity, it means they knew which shop belonged to whom. Someone might have identified the shops to them?
Salauddin – How can we say? If we had seen them we could say who identified the shops.
Aamra – Did you go to lodge a complaint only to the police station?
Salauddin – The councillor wrote all the papers. The chairman of the municipality made a phone call. They said go and get the number (of the lost documents) from the chairman, you vote for the chairman. I told all this to the chairman, asked him to tell me what to do next? He said, all the new police officers have come, what can I do?
Aamra – According to your estimate, what’s the amount of the damage suffered by you?
Salauddin – There were eighty thousand rupees in the shop, my wife had twenty two thousand, a total of one lakh two thousand. And the value of the goods was about two to two and a half lakh rupees. Household items were looted, watches, earrings.
Aamra – The police station didn’t take your FIR, you told us. Did you go somewhere else? Such as SDO or BDO office or the District Magistrate? Or the higher authorities of the police?
Salauddin – No, where can I go if it is not being taken here!
- Ghulam Sarwar, Pakija FG Street
Aamra – What had happened that day?
Ghulam – There was trouble at night, the main thing is, a man here was told he has Corona, the trouble was linked with Corona. The man was already sick during the lockdown. There is a health center here in Segun Bagan. People came from the health center to test his throat. Maybe there was some ‘disturbance’ in his body.
After 2-4 days, the test report came. What’s his name … Yes, ‘Asif’, 56 years old … Everything was done … Then General Saheb from our outpost came, maybe he got a message or some papers or something, that he needs to be hospitalized for Corona … for quarantine, he has to be kept for as long as the virus is. So the people took him as told.
Rumour spread that there has been Corona in Segun Bagan area … in 3-4 days. Telinipara outposts did a good job here, the markets were getting overcrowded. There is an open field (to his left) vegetable market was told to move and set up there, and we have a place called Nehru School on ML Lane. That place was divided to set up a vegetable market there. The people were told to maintain distance between stalls. People went to sell vegetables there … That area is Hindu neighbourhood. There is a water tap there. Beyond our wall (to his right), is the Hindu neighbourhood and all the Muslim neighbourhoods are here. A poor Muslim man went there to fetch water from the tap… they said we won’t give you water, you all have Corona … the trouble started from this exchange of words, they came and threw away the vegetables from the stalls. There is a Madrasi line before the Telinipara Jute Mill. A commotion happened there. That the Muslims have corona …. We will not take anything from them, we will not give anything to them. After all these troubles … The Hindus intensified the conflict more at night. Large numbers of Muslim have gathered too. But they … they charged a lot of things … if I say that …. Everyone knows what will happen… and after that, people came from there … they attacked from all four sides, saying Muslims have corona, Muslims are beating us … but that didn’t happen.
Aamra – But Muslims too have gathered, you said…
Ghulam: We were gathered at one place … people were coming from all sides and cornering us. Charging at us … That day 300-400 people came from outside. There was rumour that 300-400 people have come from the other side, they were Arjun Singh’s (BJP leader) men. Many people said that. Those men came from there and fought, fired shots, hurled bombs, destroyed my house … at least I suffered a loss of 4-5 lakh rupees. They entered my house and destroyed many marriage-articles of my two sister-in-laws. Two of my own cars were burned down … my sister had a baby in her womb, a delivery case … so we faced the bricks to save her. There are still scars on my face (he showed his face). The scars need medical attention … but I am not going … I’m afraid to go out … if something happens. Two days later, I took my sister to Chandannagar Hospital, she delivered a boy.
From then onwards everything was fine, there was peace. Then the trouble started again on Tuesday. It started at 11 o’clock and lasted for about four or five hours. At least 30-40 people came, hurled bombs on the house, fired gun shots, pelted stones.
We have a health center here near Sharmin Doctor’s chamber. The police came and stood there at night, we said, ‘Sir, Look over there, they’re burning the house’, we went to talk to them … pointing their guns at us and the police said, ‘You go there’.
We came back … here. 30-40 people came and set fire to the house, with guns in their hands, smoking marijuana, , setting fire to this house and at night fled to the other side (of the river). After that, I don’t know if the news of the attack reached the top level, because the police attacked them and they all fled. Some were caught while the other escaped. Most of them had come from outside. The name of this place is Tantipara, and over there is Gondalpara. There is Talenipara, Madrasi Line and Bhadreshwar. People came from all around, at least 300-400 people came from outside to kill us.
Aamra – Now which are the places you are avoiding … We mean you are going to?
Ghulam – Going to the market, but there is danger to our lives.
Aamra – At which places fear is more?
Ghulam – There is fear all around. We are going cautiously, going to bring things from outside. Travelling mainly on motorcycles, we are not walking much at present.
Aamra – Are you going towards Goalapara?
Ghulam – We are not going to Goalapara. The attack was from that side. My sister who gave birth to a child, her father-in-law and brother-in-law were dragged from the flat, beaten up and taken away by the police. They said, ‘we work in a rifle factory’. But the police didn’t listen, they dragged and took them away. A lot of people have been arrested, there was a lot of damage to the flat. The rioters had come from there on hand-boats, which are used for fishing. Black coloured boats. Some were caught, bombs were found with them.
Aamra – What are the allegations against them (his relatives)?
Ghulam : That they are involved in the riots? All false accusations.
Aamra – Do you think, now peace will be established or something will happen again?
Ghulam – Now I see there is peace for the last 4-5 days, but it is difficult to say what will happen when no one knows … When bombs are being exploded it means they must be getting ready for something. It is difficult to say now, when something will happen.
Aamra – Have you received any compensation?
Ghulam – Oh … I have a person over there, through him an application has been submitted at our municipality, at the police station … my brother-in-law too went, maybe he got something. In fact this is my brother-in-law’s house. My own house is over there, near the Segun Bagan mosque. That house is being built, the work has stopped during the lockdown, so I am staying here with the whole family. Nothing has survived in the house. People are giving clothes, we are wearing. I’ve been wearing this genji and lungi since yesterday. I don’t even have money to buy anything. One of the sisters had Rs 1-1.5 lakhs in cash, and the sister-in-law had a gold necklace. They looted everything. Nothing is left. You take pictures of this house, take videos, there is nothing left in this house.
Details of injured people
How many people were injured in this riot? We didn’t get any answer from the administration. The local people made many allegations but they were unable to present any injured person before us or let us talk to their families. Naturally, the actual data has been lost in the debate over the numbers of injured and who first started the attack. In our investigation, we get to know about two persons who were injured.
On May 10, 2020, at 7 pm, the rioters belonging to the Hindutva organization came raising slogans between lines no. 9 and line no. 10 of Bhadreshwar SN Jute Mill. Counter slogans and panic-screaming can also be heard from amongst the Muslims. Some videos of this incident have been circulating on social media (We have not checked the authenticity of the videos). We heard about an incident of attack on the Muslim Workers Colony on this same evening from the Muslim women staying in the relief camp at Haji Muhammad Mohsin Girls School. We heard it from the civic police also.
Muhammad Azad and Manzur Alam were grievously injured in the attack. They were admitted to Ankur Hospital (a hospital run by Bhadreswar Municipality) in a bloody condition. Muhammad Azad’s head was cracked and there were cuts on his fingers. Manjur Alam’s hand was broken. When we went to their quarters on June 10, no family member was present there. Both of them were still in hospital. We talked to their neighbours. This is what they told us –
We never thought this thing would happen. The children could not sleep for many nights out of panic. Manzur has two daughters and two sons. Azad also has two children. Imagine their (the children) condition after seeing so much blood. At present they are not staying here.
They have to spend a lot of money on treatment. Over a few lakhs. The Trinamool Congress gave nothing. The municipality gave only four thousand. They are in very bad situations. Both are contract workers, they won’t be able to work now.
(To be continued)
To read the first part click here: Fact Finding Report on Telinipara Communal Violence (2020): Introduction and Perspective
To read the second part click here: Fact Finding Report on Telinipara Communal Violence (2020): The Vandalised Mazar of SatyaPir
Feature Image: Anita Paswan speaking to the members of the fact finding team.
Fact-finding Report on Telinipara, 2020
By AAMRA Ek Sachetan Prayas Forum
Date of Publication: 2nd October, 2020
Team Members: Amitava Sengupta, Faruque Ul Islam, Subha Protim Roy Chowdhury, Ipsita Chakraborty, Subhankar Sengupta, Saurajit Pramanick, Saumen Ghosh, Rajesh Naskar
Associates: Sheikh Ajmal, Abhishek Mukherjee, Subhankar Mukherjee
Edited by: Amitava Sengupta, Subha Protim Roy Chowdhury
Published by – Mohit Randip
Email – email@example.com
Website – aamrabharatbarsha.com
Phone no. – 7044967575, 8697095776, 8820852054