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Bengal violence: Basirhat’s Muslim leaders tried to pacify the rioting mob, but couldn’t

During violent protests over a blasphemous Facebook post by a class 11 student since July 2, several dozen houses and shops of Hindus were vandalised and gutted, apart from nearly a dozen police vehicles that were torched.

india Updated: Jul 16, 2017 07:10 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Basirhat,Baduria,Communal Violence
Abdul Matin, general secretary of the All India Sunnat Al Jamayet, tried to control the mob during the communal violence at Baduria.(Samir Jana/HT Photo)

The nature of violence at Basirhat and Baduria in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal has left the area’s Muslim leaders shocked and surprised.

Despite trying their best to pacify marauding crowds of their own community on Sunday evening, they failed to persuade the mob to retreat.

“We feel shocked and ashamed. This incident is a major setback for our community and our fight against the atmosphere of intolerance perpetrated by the RSS. Muslims, who so far got sympathies, now stand accused,” said Mohammad Kamruzzaman, secretary of the West Bengal Minority Youth Federation who lives close to the troubled area.

During violent protests over a blasphemous Facebook post by a class 11 student since July 2, several dozen houses and shops of Hindus were vandalised and gutted, apart from nearly a dozen police vehicles that were torched.

About two dozen people suffered injuries due to clashes between the agitators and police and also between the two communities.

Right from the beginning of the protests on Sunday, the district administration was in constant touch with Muslim community leaders such as Kamruzzaman, Abdul Matin and Abdur Kayum, who kept rushing from one place to another to help lift road blockades.

“Almost all Muslim social and religious organisations worked in coordination with the administration to pacify the rioters but, for failed reasons yet unknown. The government needs to find out who organised the vandalism,” Kamruzzaman said.

Matin, secretary of Islamic social organisation Sunnat Al Jamayaat, swung into action soon after he heard agitators were planning to block roads all over Baduria on Monday, the day of ulta rath yatra.

On Sunday night itself, he travelled more than 10 km to reach Baduria police station, which was under siege from a mob of estimated 5,000 people.

The mob was demanding that police bring before the crowd the class 11 student who made a blasphemous Facebook post.

Matin desperately tried to convince the mob to withdraw the blockade, urged them to give police 24 hours to arrest the culprit so that he could be prosecuted as per law.

“We must abide by the Constitution and cannot take law into our own hand. Moreover, we cannot do anything that harms anyone except the culprit. The RSS is conspiring across India to fuel trouble. We must not fall in that trap. Taking law into our own hand will be nothing less than harakiri,” Matin told the gathering. But the mob appeared stubborn.

Finally, after much persuasion, Matin and Abdur Kayum, who is a lecturer at Alia University, managed to send the mob back with the promise of launching a blockade if a police failed to arrest the boy.

The police nabbed the boy, who had fled by then, at 3 am on Monday. He was taken out of the area for his safety.

From early morning on Monday, Matin, Kayum and Mohammad Kamrujjaman issued statements through social media, urging people from the community to refrain from blockade of road, as the accused was already arrested and that it was the day of ulta rath yatra.

But none heeded their words. Protesters continued the vandalism demanding the accused be handed over to them.

“All our efforts went in vain. In some areas, Muslims protected the rath yatra processions but at some locations even local Muslims failed to restrain the mob, which almost always comprised people from other localities,” Kayum said.

Raths came under attack in areas under Baduria and Basirhat police station. Police cars outside Baduria police station were torched, as was the house where the accused boy lived.

The house stands bang opposite the village mosque, Milan Masjid. Amirul Islam, the president of the mosque committee, too, tried to pacify the mob.

“The police needs to check the call list of each and every religious leader of the area to find out who fomented trouble and who organised these young and illiterate youths to launch attack on Hindu households,” Matin told HT.

First Published: Jul 08, 2017 13:36 IST