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Rampurhat Violence: Eyewitness Recalls Night When His House Was Immolated

Only the witness' daughter survived the alleged arson.

Updated
India
3 min read
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Mihilal Sheikh, one of the eyewitnesses of the violence that occurred on Monday, 21 March, in West Bengal's Birbhum where several houses were set on fire leading to the death of eight people, managed to escape the mob by hiding a few meters away.

He, along with his brother, watched from their hiding spot as miscreants hurled crude bombs at his house.

"The women locked the house from the inside so that the mob can't enter the house," Sheikh tells The Quint, while recalling how the night's events unfolded. His wife, Sheli Bibi, daughter Tuli Khatun, and other family members, were all trapped inside.

While his wife and five other family members could not survive the alleged arson, his daughter did.

The charred bodies of eight people were recovered by the police on Tuesday, 22 March, from Bogtui village in Birbhum's Rampurhat in West Bengal.

Villagers allege that this act of violence was in retaliation to the killing of Trinamool Congress leader Bhadu Sheikh.

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Apart from Mihilal Sheikh's house, the other burned houses belonged to Sona Sheikh and Banirul Sheikh, who were supposedly related to Bhadu Sheikh.

'A Mob Came Charging Towards My House'

Mihilal came out to the streets after he heard the news of Bhadu Sheikh's death only to find several men running towards his house on foot and on motorcycles.

Other villagers from Bogtui’s Purbapara, where Mihilal stays, were out on the streets too.

Mihilal, who claims that he has no connection to Bhadu’s death whatsoever, was confused about why the mob charged towards his house. Seeing this, he and his brother hid themselves as they thought the mob was out for their blood.

We stood there for 10 to 12 minutes after which we saw a mob pointing and charging towards our house, saying that they will kill every single member of the family. Several moments later, more people joined the mob. They hurled crude bombs and came prepared with everything needed to set a house on fire.
Mihilal Sheikh

Scared, his family members, including his wife and daughter, stayed put inside the house.

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The last sight before the two brothers fled to Sainthia to save their lives was of men cutting through the grill to enter their house. Mihilal claims that a total of 10 members from his family died on 21 March, while police figures put the death toll at eight.

'No Political Angle to Violence'

DGP Manoj Malviya said that the police is probing all angles in the incident and claims that the violence might have occurred in retaliation to Bhadu Sheikh’s killing.

The murder has no political connection. But personal enmity cannot be ruled out.
Manoj Malviya, DGP, Kolkata

At least 20 people have been arrested so far in connection with the incident. Meanwhile, the Calcutta High Court has asked DGP Malviya to ensure the witnesses' safety, including that of a minor boy who was injured in the arson. It has further directed the state government to file a report on the case before it by 2 pm on Thursday.

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"No Enmity Towards Anyone."

Mihilal claims that neither he nor his family have any personal enmity towards Bhadu Sheikh. However, he mentioned that one of his nephews, who is also an accused in the murder of Bhadu Sheikh, used to work for Sheikh before he quit.

He said that his nephew apparently didn’t want to be associated with Sheikh anymore over his allegedly corrupt ways. "Two months ago, Bhadu Sheikh’s men had thrashed and broken my nephew's arm," Mihilal added. "All I request now is for a fair and impartial probe into the whole matter."

According to ABP reports, Mihilal alleged that no one from the authorities has contacted him yet to identify any of the victims.

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