As the fanatics attacked Hindus, burnt and looted their houses, the Police, administration and TMC leadership literally turned a blind eye
By Jisnu Basu
The March 27 Shri Ram Navami rally in Asansol, could have passed off as another routine procession like previous years. Since the time of Indian freedom movement, local Akharas have been organising big Shri Ram Navami rallies. This year also, there was a spectacular rally. The participation of women, children and members of the Scheduled Tribe families was noteworthy. The rally was peaceful, girls were dancing, children were dressed as Ram, Sita and Bajrangbali. Midway, into the rally, however, the scenario changed dramatically. The rally was passing through Chandmari area of Rail para. Suddenly criminals attacked the Hindu devotees. It was around 5.30 pm, only 2-3 unarmed Policemen were escorting the rally. The attackers were equipped with swords, shutter guns, hand bombs and iron rods. There was no provocation from the procession, Hindus were unprepared and became the victim of the deadly attack.
Railpar area is under Ward No. 25 of Asansol Municipality. The percentage of Hindus is quite small in this locality. At around 6.30 pm, anti-social goons started throwing acid bulbs and Molotov cocktail targeting the Hindu houses. Hindus came out of their houses for obvious reasons. Communal goons looted and ransacked the households after Hindus left their houses. Television sets, refrigerators, jewellery and other costly items were taken away. After looting, they blasted gas cylinders inside the houses. Women were molested and children were beaten mercilessly. Pratima Debi Rauth (50) died during the riot. Post mortem investigation had been completed within couple of hours and the body was harshly sent to crematorium. Family members were not allowed to take the body to their own residence. Police forced them to complete the cremation and rituals immediately.
Few months back Hazi Nasib Ansari, Trinmool Congress Councilor from Ward No 25 had warned the local minority Hindus to shift the temple located at the entry point of Railpara which the Hindus refused. Ansari demonstrated his oft-repeated assertion that “Railpar Mahalla” is not for Hindus. On the day of violence residents of Ward 25 tried to contact the Councilor, but recieved no response. Thus, the Police administration and TMC leadership literally allowed the Hindu houses to be burnt to ashes.
Due to police inaction, the riots spread like wildfire. From Railpara locality the anti-social elements started entering from nearby localities. Local fundamentalists also joined the hooligans. Sibtulla Rashidi (16), son of Imam Imdatullah Rashidi, also accompanied the rioters, when a group of hooligans attacked Ramakrishna Dangal area. Sibtulla died in the clash. Imdatullah Rashidi is the Imam of Noorani Masjid in Railpar. Police played a different role over here. Administration didn’t allow Pratima’s family members to take home her body for the rituals. On the other hand police allowed organising a huge gathering in front of Noorani Masjid on March 29. Mediapersons were allowed to cover the programme. State government refused to deploy central forces to control the situation.
For the last few years, Maloy Ghatak, Trinamool Congress MLA from Asansol, is actively engaged for settling Muslims from Bihar. The newcomers are not merely used as vote bank, but also as potential political goons. Mostly, Muslims are coming from Bhagalpur area of north Bihar. As a result, the demography is changing rapidly in and around Asansol.
West Bengal Governor KN Tripathi wished to visit the affected areas immediately after the incident. Initially, he was discouraged by the state government. Finally, he visited Raniganj and Asansol on March 31, 2018. Union Minister Babul Supriyo and state BJP Mahila Morcha president Locket Chatterjee were also stopped from entering Asansol-Raniganj area by the police on March 29. Defying the state government’s prohibitory orders, four-member committee of the BJP, comprising of the party’s national vice-president Om Mathur, spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain, MP Roopa Ganguly and BD Ram, visited the violence-hit Asansol on April 1.
The attitude of State Government has triggered a multi-polar debate in Asansol-Raniganj. Why did the Police administration and intelligence not take proper steps beforehand in Asansol? Only two days before, there was a preplanned riot in Raniganj. CRPF and local policefailed to tame the dangerous actors.
In Raniganj, a big rally was organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other organisations on March 26, following all directives of local administration. None of the participants was carrying any kind of weapon. The procession was passing through Rajabnadh area, when fanatics started throwing stones and bombs. The riots spread in Hatia Shiv Mandir locality, Marwari Patti, Hillbasti, Bardahi, Baruipara, Vikashnagar and College Para. The fanatics killed Mahesh Monal (50). Police tried to control the attackers in late hours. but a mob, led by local goon Billy, hurled bombs targeting the policemen. Arindam Duttachowdhury lost his right hand due to bomb blast. Police lodged a suo muto sue against the attackers (FIR No. 99/ 2018 of Raniganj PS). The first accused is Intekab Khan aka Billy.
The intellectuals and Sanyasins organised a huge rally at Esplanade, Kolkata, on April 2 protesting against the inhuman attack on Ram Navami processions. They also submitted a memorandum to the Governor Shri KN Tripathi after the rally.