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Lynching in Bengal: victims were not cattle thieves, insist villagers

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 26 June 2017, 23:01 IST
(STR/NurPhoto/Getty Images (For representation only))

The fire of lynching seems to be spreading across the breadth of India, and West Bengal, too, has got engulfed in it.

Days after the killing of Ballabgarh native Junaid aboard a train came reports of a triple lynching at Durgapur village in Chopra block of the North Dinajpur district of Bengal. The killings, incidentally, are alleged to have occurred on the same day as the one in Haryana – Thursday, 22 June.

In protest, Muslim residents of Chopra decided not to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr on Monday, and demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident.

On Thursday, Mohammad Samiruddin (32), a resident of Kandarpara, Mohammad Nasiruddin (24), a resident of Dhulagach (under Islampur police station), and Nasirul Haque (28), a resident of Kutipara under Chopra police station, were killed, on the suspicion of being cattle thieves.

Administration's response

The police have detained three people in connection with this triple lynching from Chopra – Krishna Poddar (40), Samit Basu (42), and Soumen Basu (41).

North Dinajpur district magistrate Ayesha Rani said: “The three people who were lynched to death were cattle thieves, and we have detained three people in connection with the incident. Their interrogation is going on.”

A senior officer at Chopra police station said: “Preliminary investigation revealed that the three people were hit by some hard objects. We are probing the matter.”

On his part, West Bengal home secretary Malay De said: “We are waiting for a report from the district administration. I cannot comment without looking at the report.”

Not cattle thieves

The deceased's kin have refuted the tag of 'cattle thieves'.

Daber Ali, a member of the gram panchayat of Kandarpara and a distant relative of Samiruddin, insisted he was a no thief; just a construction worker. “On Thursday evening, Samiruddin received a phone call and went out of the house. After two and a half hours, when Samiruddin could not be traced, we started looking for him and found his body near our village. This was the second tragedy in Samiruddin's family – his brother, who had gone to work in New Delhi, had gone missing four years ago,” he said.

Mohammad Azhar, an acquaintance of Nasiruddin from Dhulagach, said: “He worked as a construction labourer. His father Ashin Ali, too, was a construction labourer, but now, Nasiruddin was the sole earning member of the family. He got a phone call in the evening and he went out of the house. The next day, his body was found.”

Mansur Ali, who knew Nasirul in Kutipara, added: “He was the only breadwinner in the family. In fact, the three men who were lynched to death all knew each other for a long time. Nasirul's wife Marjina Khatun said a few days ago that he was supposed to go to New Delhi after Eid, as he had got work as a construction labourer at a project in New Delhi. But the incident has left his family shattered.”

Living in fear

Sources said that despite enormous police presence, villagers in the Chopra area were living in fear.

Samiruddin's relative Daber Ali said the entire village was in shock, not just the family members.

“A somber mood has descended over the village, and we have decided not to celebrate Eid this year. We had plans to celebrate Eid in a big way this year, and had decided to organise a cultural programme along with dinner after the Eid celebration. But after this incident, the entire village is shocked. Family members are not allowing anybody to enter their house now,” he said.

It's no different for Nasiruddin's family and neighbours, according to Azhar: “On Eid, his father was sitting in a corner of the room crying for his son. Nasiruddin's wife Aneesa Begum was speechless, and was cradling their four-month-old baby as she cried. Some of the villagers were so petrified after the incident that they locked their homes from the inside and are not allowing anyone to enter their houses.”

Daber Ali said the villagers were planning to file deputations at both Chopra and Islampur police stations. “We demand a judicial inquiry,” said Daber, which was echoed by Nasirul's friend Mansur.

First published: 26 June 2017, 23:01 IST