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Locals say Violence in Basirhat the ‘Handiwork’ of Outsiders

Locals at Basirhat are struggling to pick up the pieces of their broken lives, reports G Singh.

Updated
India
5 min read
Locals say Violence in Basirhat the ‘Handiwork’ of Outsiders
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Mamun Sheikh shudders every time he sees an unknown person near his tilled-roof hut at Paikpara in Basirhat off North 24 parganas, around 70 kilometers from Kolkata.

Sleep eludes him as he keeps on turning sides during night hours. He wakes up abruptly as if haunted by a nightmare and starts crying.

The nine-year-old was untraceable for several hours when the flames of communal violence gripped his village on 5 July. His family members desperately searched for him before locating him inside an abandoned shed, around 2 kilometers away from his house.

The thoughts of a mob chasing him and pelting stones at his house refuse to leave his mind, “He starts crying whenever he sees an unknown person fearing that he could attack him”, says Arifa Biwi (23), his mother as she recounts the horror of that day.

Also Watch: Exclusive: Basirhat Riot Victim’s Son Denies BJP’s Claim to Him

He was playing outside the house when people armed with sharp-edged weapons targeted us. He ran away from fear and was missing for several hours.
Arifa Biwi, Mamun Sheikh’s mother
Mamun Sheikh with his mother Arifa Biwi.
(Photo: G Singh/The Quint)
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No Respite for Victims

Mamun, being a kid, might be able to forget the dreadful images as he grows up, but it would be difficult for others to expunge anything from their mind as the clashes have not only destroyed their shops and has reduced them to virtual beggars, but has also damaged the social fabric that Basirhat was so proud of.

Standing outside the skeleton of her tea-shop, Putul Shee, narrates her plight to every visitor with the hope of getting some financial aid. After all, her condition is pathetic.

The fifty-five year-old widow has the responsibility to feed the hungry mouths of her three siblings who are all blind.

I have been running the shop for the past twenty-five years after the death of my husband. I earn a paltry Rs 100 a day to arrange food for my blind brothers and a sister. I have suffered losses to the tune of Rs 15,000 as my shop has been completely damaged by the vandals. How will I now support them?
Putul Shee, Basirhat riot victim
Locals claim violence at Basirhat was the handiwork of ‘outsiders’.
(Photo: G Singh/The Quint)

Handiwork of ‘Outsiders’

The situation across Basirhat subdivisions is limping towards normalcy over a week after communal clashes erupted in Baduria and soon fanned to other areas over an objectionable Facebook post allegedly by a Class 12 student.

He has since been arrested and his family kept at an undisclosed location by the police to save them from the crowd who demanded that the boy should be publicly punished.

The shop owners who lost everything in the mind-numbing violence are trying to pick up the pieces, literally. A majority of the establishments across Maitra Bagan, Harishpur, Raghunathpur, Tyantra, and Bhyabla in Basirhat that have been ransacked and looted are grocery and food item stores.

People from both the communities have claimed the violence to be the handiwork of ‘outsiders’ and have vowed not to allow the seed of hatred to be sown.

“We have lived as a close-knit families for over decades and have celebrated both Eid and Diwali together”, said Ajet Ali Mondal, 60, whose grocery shop was looted and vandalised by the mob at Tyantra. He has suffered losses to the tune of Rs 65,000.

Ajet Mondal’s grocery shop was looted and vandalised by the mob at Tyantra.
(Photo: G Singh/The Quint)
The relations have always been cordial, but a few outsiders are now trying to damage the social fabric. The sole intention is to plunder and create hatred among us for political gains. We would not allow this to happen. Members of both communities are keeping a close watch to prevent the entry of outsiders in our village.
Ajet Ali Mondal, grocery store owner, Basirhat
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Politicisation of Violence

The administration has confirmed the death of one person in the clashes though sources claimed that more people have died in the violence. Internet services are still suspended to prevent the spread of rumours. Over 30 persons have been arrested so far on accusations of fomenting trouble. Rail and road traffic movement is slowly turning towards normalcy.

The cops and BSF Jawans are patrolling the villages round the clock to prevent any untoward incident. The state government has already ordered a judicial inquiry to bring the perpetrators to book.

Politics has begun to breed on the fertile ground of fear and violence. The BJP flags are visible in areas which were hit with violence. The minority community has been accusing the ‘outsiders’, particularly the RSS and BJP, for instigating the mob.

BJP Claims Innocence

The South Basirhat constituency that witnessed intense unrest was held by BJP’s Samik Bhattacharya, before Trinamool Congress won the assembly seat last year. Some of the affected people have also blamed the sitting Trinamool MLA Dipendu Biswas for triggering chaos.

State BJP president Dilip Ghosh has, however, dismissed any involvement of his party or any Hindu organisations in creating disturbance.

The Chief Minister is trying to hide her failure in controlling the communal flare-up by blaming us. She should immediately resign and President’s rule should be imposed as the law and order machinery has completely collapsed in the state.
Dilip Ghosh, BJP President, West Bengal

The clashes have also led to a showdown between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, with the former accusing the Governor of behaving like the “BJP block president.” She has also blamed the saffron party for fanning communal tensions in the state. The state government has already ordered a judicial probe to bring the perpetrators to book.

Far from the political rumblings, the victims of the mayhem are staring at a bleak future after having lost everything in an unrest in which they had no role to play.

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(The writer is a Kolkata-based freelance journalist.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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