Even in a cotton shirt and a lungi, the ‘master’ looks different from his men – he uses a fashionable sunglass. After more than two dozen phone calls, verification, cross-verification and even frisking, HT finally reached Master Rafique, the most famous bomb-maker in a village near Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan (abode of peace) in Birbhum district.
Hindustan Times: How good are you at making bombs?
R afique: I can make one in five minutes. With four-five helpers, I can make around 2,000 pieces a day. Ask any political leader or gangster in Bengal, he will tell you how good I am. I do not want to brag
HT: When did you learn and from whom?
Rafique: I cannot reveal the name of my ‘Guru’ (teacher). I started out when I was 16 and now I have two-three people working for me. My Guru is now in jail. I meet him sometimes
HT: Is bomb-making your only profession?
Rafique: I own around five bighas of two-crop land. But since I have to feed a family of six, this work comes in handy
HT: How busy are you these days?
Rafique: Our business booms during the poll season. But since Birbhum have seen political clashes, especially in Nanur area, since 2011, I had little time to waste. Just before the polls, we sometimes hop from one district to another, even to Kolkata
HT: What do you charge these days?
Rafique: My fees range from Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 depending on the number of bombs, time spent for each client. But for a couple of days’ work, we charge nothing less than Rs 15,000. For urgent work, I even charge Rs 10,000 for half a day.
HT: How important you think you are for politicians and goons?
Rafique: I get calls from all the big and small leaders. Sometimes, gangsters, too, get in touch. We are treated like VIPs in this season. This time, I told them I need an air-conditioned car for my travel.
HT: How is the demand when there’s no election in sight?
Rafique: Thanks to Trinamool’s faction fights, we do good business. For instance, every village here in Nanur got around 1,000 to 1,500 bombs in stock. The CPI(M) and BJP also call us.
HT: Is there a retirement age?
Rafique: I think I can work till the age of 60-65. Unlike Babus, we have no retirement. You know you have to stop when your eyes fail or your hands shake. Or, more importantly, when you no longer have the nerve.
HT: Aren’t you scared?
Rafique: I risk my life every day, sir. Many of my acquaintances got killed while making bombs. But my job is a job like any other. We also take precautions.
HT: What do your family has to say about this?
Rafique: Once in, there’s no exit. We don’t want to make our political bosses angry. We have families, sir.
(With inputs from Surojit Ghosh Hazra)