West Bengal: Two Muslim youths missing since Basirhat riots six months ago
Police said they are not pursuing the cases as families of the missing youths stopped following up.india Updated: Jan 14, 2018 22:40 IST
Two Muslim youths, aged 21, who went out for Basirhat in West Bengal on July 4 — the day communal violence over a blasphemous social media post reached its peak in the town — have not returned home since then, police and family members said.
The family of one of the missing youths, Alamgir Mondal, a resident of Ankipur village, lodged a complaint with Basirhat police station on July 9, while the family of the other, Arafat Gharami, a resident of Ganrakuli, filed the complaint with neighbouring Hasnabad police station on July 8.
The police took the families to several hospitals in Kolkata, where the injured were admitted, and the jails, where people arrested in connection with violence were kept. However, Mondal and Gharami, or their bodies, were not found anywhere.
Neither the administration nor any rights group or organisations working for the Muslims got in touch with the families since.
Officers at Basirhat and Hasnabad police stations, who are not authorised to speak to the media, on condition of anonymity said that the cases were not pursued because the families stopped following up. Text messages to C. Sudhakar, district superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas, elicited no response.
While Arafat’s father Imadul did not admit it, their neighbours, who refused to be identified, alleged that the family stopped pursuing the case with the administration under pressure from some local influential persons.
“We are people with almost no connections. What can we do? We stopped looking for him,” he said.
Basirhat Uttar MLA, CPI(M)’s Rafiqul Islam Mondal, said, “I have heard about them, but none came to me for help.” Trinamool Congress’s Basirhat unit chief, A T M Abdullah, echoed him.
“In August, we contacted the families. They were supposed to come to our office in Kolkata so that we could help them move court. However, possibly under pressure, the families backed out,” said Ranjit Sur, vice-president of Bengal’s largest rights organisation, Association for Protection of Democratic Rights.
Violence broke out in Basirhat and neighbouring Baduria on July 2 over an offensive Facebook post by a minor Hindu boy and continued till July 6. One person, Kartik Ghosh, succumbed to the wounds sustained in a clash.
“Alamgir left for Basirhat town just like every other morning. Labour contractors gather at the town everyday looking for workers to work at fisheries. Usually these labourers work till 11.30-12.00 and have their lunch at home. Alamgir did not come back for his meal,” said Mofazzal Haque, a neighbour, who visited the hospitals and jails in search of him.
Alamgir, a daily labourer, was the sole bread earner for his septuagenarian grandparents, and they are now on the verge of starvation.
“He must have been killed,” said Maijuddin Mondal, 75, who struggles to walk even with the help of a stick. His wife, Mairam Bibi, 70, can hardly leave her bed.
A month after Alamgir went missing, the elderly couple sent his 18-year-old wife, Masuma Khatun, back to her paternal home, as they could not afford to feed an extra mouth.
The couple’s only son Babar Ali Mondal, who lives separately with his family, irregularly earns Rs 200 a day.
Gharami, a tailor, had gone to Basirhat town, five kilometres from their home, to get spare parts for his father’s cycle repairing shop.
“He took an auto-rickshaw ride. By the time he reached Basirhat, heavy rain had started. He left his phone, wrapped in a plastic packet, in the vehicle. Communal violence started around the same time. We were frantically calling his number to ask him to come back but it went on ringing. In the evening, the auto-driver came back with the phone and said that Arafat never came back to his vehicle,” said Tarikul Islam, brother-in-law, and a resident of Moilakhola in Basirhat.
When the family first went to the police on July 5, they were sent to Basirhat hospital. From the hospital, they learnt about 26 persons, including two seriously injured unidentified persons, were referred to R G Kar Medical College and Hospital (RGKMCH) in Kolkata.
At RGKMCH, the doctors allegedly confirmed admitting 24 persons — six of whom were sent to SSKM hospital — but denied any knowledge about two unidentified persons.