Who Was Anish Khan, the Youth Whose Death Has Sparked Protests in Kolkata?
Protests have rocked Kolkata over the death of student activist Anish Khan. We look at the developments so far.
Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam
The city of Kolkata came to a standstill as scores of students took to the streets protesting against the death of a young activist named Anish Khan.
On Tuesday, 22 February, the SIT (Special Investigation Team) formed by the West Bengal government under the direction of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee suspended three police personnel (ASI, constable and one home guard) from the Amta police station over “negligence of duty.”
No arrests have been made till the time of drafting this article.
The Case So Far
Khan was allegedly killed on 19 February around 1 am in Amta’s Sarada Dakshin Khan para. According to his father, one man dressed in a police uniform and three dressed in a civic police/volunteer’s uniform visited their place, held his father at gunpoint and raided the house to look for Khan. A few moments later Khan fell from the terrace. The four men quickly escaped on foot.
He also said that the men had come with the pretext of talking to Anish over an ongoing investigation against him.
A family member heard one of them telling the person in police uniform, “Sir, the job is done”.
He was pronounced dead upon arriving at the hospital.
His father, Salem Khan, further alleged that the police arrived at the scene of the crime almost seven hours after he had called the station, which is around four kilometers away from their house.
An audio clip of the conversation between police personnel from the Amta PS and Salem Khan have gone viral where he is heard complaining about his son’s death and requesting the police to come over at the soonest. The police personnel on the other side says that he has no idea about the incident, and that the patrol car is on the other side of the town at the time of calling and will reach their house when possible. He further asks Salem to visit the police station to file an FIR and take his son to the hospital.
It must also be noted here that his father repeatedly tells the personnel that his son is dead, but the police keep asking him if he’s been taken to a hospital (for a doctor’s confirmation).
After the police arrived on Sunday morning, the locals blocked their path in protest and did not let them visit the house. They came back sometime later with the forensics team who were collecting evidence. The crime scene was covered with a sack, which many are alleging may have contaminated the evidence.
A delegation from student organizations (SFI and DYFI) visited Khan’s family. They later marched to the Amta police station to protest. WB Minister Pulak Roy too was initially stopped as he tried to visit the victim's house.
Howrah Rural SP Soumya Roy denied the involvement of police in the untimely death of Khan and said that if police personnel had gone to his house, they would have taken him in custody.
While political leaders including Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim called for an impartial investigation, students from Aliah University and Jadavpur University took to the streets for a candlelight march on Sunday evening, protesting the police and the ruling party.
The next day, CM Mamata Banerjee condemned Khan's death and said that ‘he was very close to the party’. She ordered the formation of the SIT and a thorough, impartial investigation into the matter. They SIT is to submit their report within 15 days.
Shortly before the press conference, Hakim met Mohammad Zim Nawaaz, an activist who has close ties to both Anish and the TMC. He passed Hakim a ‘report’ regarding Khan’s death, following which Hakim called CM Banerjee and briefed her about the matter.
The SIT formed was headed by Gyanwant Singh ADG of CID West Bengal and consisted of Dhrubajyoti De, joint CP Barrackpore Police and Meeraj Khalid, DIG, CID.
Incidentally, Gyanwant Singh, who is heading the SIT was an accused in the untimely death of 30-year-old computer graphics trainer, Rizwanur Rahman.
Rizwanur was found dead beside a railway track near Patipukur on September 21, 2007, two weeks after his "wife" Priyanka Todi, daughter of Ashok Todi (Owner of Lux Cozi) had taken her away.
Three top cops including Singh were accused of interfering in the relationship. Rahman in his suicide note too had named him, however his name didn't make it to the CBI chargesheet.
Khan’s family refused to pass his phone to the police alleging that they want a CBI probe into the matter. They said that they will pass his phone only if the court demands so.
Times Now Journalist Tamal Saha posted an audio on his twitter account which showcases a telephonic conversation between one of Khan’s family members (female) and another person (male) where they are discussing that the family told the police initially that they don’t have Khan’s phone but are apprehensive that the police might track the phone to their location. The male suggests that they reveal that they have found the phone which searching for it.
Friends of Khan who had visited his house to perform last rites, told The Quint that they too had suggested his father not to give his phone to anyone.
The following Tuesday, three police personnel were suspended, and the SIT interrogated the family members and investigated the crime scene through the night.
Calcutta High Court took Suo Moto proceedings in the matter, and the next hearing is set for Thursday, 24 February.
Who Was Anish Khan?
Khan’s friends from Aliah university had met him a couple of days before his unfortunate death when he had visited Kolkata. He used to put up at a PG in Newtown, near Aliah University, with Giasuddin Mondal – his senior at the same university.
Mondal, who has not publicly spoken about Khan’s death yet, tells The Quint about how Khan was always very proactive in standing up for social issues – be it Aliah’s internal matters, or the Anti-CAA protests.
“But I want to make it clear that he was never a part of the ongoing protests at Aliah university,” he claims.
A glance through his Facebook profile would throw up his stance on all kinds of issues, but none about the on-going university protests.
Mondal and his other friends further ascertained that while he was always a part of most protests, he was never at the forefront of it. In their words, “he was never on the frontlines of protests.”
Mondal, who was the former president of the Trinamool Student Congress in Aliah University would often help newcomers get a hostel accommodation. Khan too was one of them, and that is how their friendship started.
From taking up university issues to sharing cigarettes, they did several things together. Mondal, an electrical engineering student says he was always there to guide Anish through his university tenure, even in his student activism endeavors.
Khan who had enrolled in 2015 for an Integrated BBA-MBA course protested alongside Mondal in 2017 for the resignation of the then Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Dr. Abu Taleb Khan.
Mondal says that Khan had no fixed political affiliation. He was, what he calls a ‘Protibondhi’ or someone who opposes.
He would stand up and oppose any issue that affected the students or the society.Giasuddin Mondal, Anish Khan's friend
His friends further add that Khan, a “good orator” was initially associated with the SFI, then the CPI(M). He was also associated with the ISF (Indian Secular Front) before the 2021 Bengal Assembly Elections but was contemplating a move to TMC.
Mondal says that Khan, during their last encounter, had told him that he and his family had been receiving multiple threats from local leaders because he had raised his voice against them. Mondal had suggested that he join the TMC, and Khan said that he too was contemplating the same as that might stop the threats.
After his death, a letter written by him in July 2021, alleging that deputy head of the gram panchayat and local Trinamool booth president threatened him and his family after he wanted to organize a blood donation camp, has been going viral.
Then, at about 7 PM that day, men stormed my house and verbally abused me, kicked my door and threatened to kill me. My family and I are in a state of great insecurity and fear that they could kill me and my family any day.Anish Khan in his letter
Mondal says that Khan’s mother passed away in 2018 and his academics were suffering around the same time too and had failed several of his modules.
Anish was quite disturbed and would often come to me asking what to do, and if I could help him in any way. Because he failed a few subjects, he was slated to finish his course in 2022 instead of 2019.Giasuddin Mondal, Anish Khan's friend
Khan also had a few run-ins with the law. On 11 September 2017, a POCSO case was filed against him. The next hearing for that case was due on 21st April 2022, in which Khan was expected to appear in front of the judge. A case was also filed by Khan’s advocate SK Masum Hossain under , on 4th October 2018. It is not known if the two are related.
A cop who worked at the Amta police station during the time of filing this case told The Quint on the condition of anonymity that the station had called his lawyer and asked Khan to visit the station so that “they can figure out a way to help him”. But Khan never showed.
There’s still no substantial evidence if the above cases or events have anything to do with his death, or who were involved in it. As the investigation proceeds, more details might come to light. Until then, students and activists promise to continue their protests.
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