-An insight into Indian Islamophobia
“They came in such large numbers and with so much ammunition, we couldn’t even resist them,” he said. Showing us a torched house which was part of a set of five houses, all sharing common walls with no spaces in between he said, “This house caught fire and there was a cylinder inside. I rushed inside and took out the cylinder and covered it with sand. If I had come in a few minutes late, all these five houses would have been gutted in the fire,” he recalled.
The violence-hit area is surrounded by land on three sides and the river on one side. Gondalpara mill is located on the banks of the Hooghly and on the opposite bank is Jagatdal, which falls in Barrackpur district. The Jagatdal area forms part of the Barrackpur parliamentary constituency, whose sitting MP is the locally influential Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of parliament (MP), Arjun Singh. Salim alleged that Singh’s men came in small boats to Telinipara from the direction of the Gondalpara mill.
We found that police sub-inspector M.D. Nihal’s house in the bylanes off Ferry Ghat street, had also been vandalised. One of the walls of his house bore severe cracks, due to the impact from a cylinder that had burst in the next house. Nihal’s house was locked. Locals told us that he was posted at Basirhat police station, near the international border in neighbouring North 24 Parganas district, and hence had moved there with his family.
At the end of the same bylane, we met 50-year-old Zulfikar Ansari, a former Gondalpara jute mill worker. His house was also burned, with his father’s room on the second floor suffering particularly bad damage. Ansari told The Wire that the house next door belongs to the local councillor, but no one cared to intervene when the attack happened. “They hit my old father; I pleaded with them with folded hands, but they didn’t listen. They even took my cow. It was my only source of income after I lost my job.”
The Wire asked ward councillor Chitra Choudhury why she didn’t offer any help when her neighbours were attacked. Choudhury and her husband, both belonging to the Congress party, have between them held the councillor’s seat for over 25 year, continuously.
“My son was with me at that time. Should I save myself, my son, or go to save others? Do you want me to stand in between when two groups are hurling bombs?” Choudhury countered. When we asked if she did not see it as her duty, as an elected representative, to at least meet the victims, she nonchalantly replied, “Do I have the ability to do anything, then why will I go to meet with the victims?”
Locals said that not a single politician visited them. Many allege that the member of the state legislative assembly for Chandannagar, Indranil Sen of the ruling All Indian Trinamool Congress, hardly ever visits his constituency, in which Bhadreswar-Telinipara lie. They further alleged that Sen, who is also West Bengal’s minister of state for information and cultural affairs, becomes active only at the time of elections. Several calls and text messages The Wiresent to Sen went unanswered till the time of publication.
Speaking to The Wire, Chandannagar police commissioner Humayun Kabir said, “Sunday’s [May 10] incident was spontaneous, but Tuesday’s [May 12] incident was a pre-planned one and had been systematically organised.
To be Continued