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Minors behind FB posts that triggered communal clashes in Bengal granted bail, now in Hindutva outfit’s custody

Hindu Samhati, the outfit that has given shelter to the two 17-year-old boys, has decided to get them admitted to a school.

kolkata Updated: Dec 21, 2017 13:14 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times
Hindu,Muslim,Bengal
File picture of shops vandalised during the communal flare up in North 24 Parganas district of Bengal in July 2017.(Samir Jana)

The two minors, whose blasphemous Facebook post triggered the most high-profile communal face off in Bengal in recent times, have been released on bail and are now in the custody of a Hindutva outfit in Kolkata.

Leaders of Hindu Samhati that has given them shelter told HT that they will take responsibility of their school that has been disrupted since communal violence broke out in Baduria and Basirhat areas in North 24 Parganas district where they lived.

Read: After the riots: Basirhat plans gala Rakhi, I-Day celebrations for harmony

Dozens of houses and shops of Hindus were vandalised and gutted and nearly a dozen police vehicles were set on fire in the communal violence that started on July 2 and continued for three-four days in extensive areas of North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. A middle aged man was also killed.

The skeleton of a vehicle lies in Baduria after it was set ablaze by a crowd protesting the Facebook post. (Samir Jana)

The minors, both 17, were granted bail on December 16 and released from a shelter for the juveniles in North Kolkata two days later.

They were brought to the house of Tapan Ghosh, founder of far-right Hindutva outfit Hindu Samhati. They will stay at Ghosh’s house for the time being.

“We strongly opposed their release, especially because we felt their lives could be at risk. I have been instructed to consider moving appellate authorities seeking cancellation of bail,” said Bivas Chatterjee, the state government’s nodal officer for cases related to cyber crime.

Read: Basirhat clashes: Minor whose FB post triggered Bengal riots in jail against law

Government officials said that the charge sheet against both was filed within 60 days and that the inquiry -- in Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) trials are referred to as inquiry -- have started. The statement of three witnesses have already been recorded.

Following the government pleader’s insistence on the concerns related to their security, JJB ordered that they boys will have to stay 50 km away from their home. The house of one of the minors was destroyed and set ablaze by a protesting crowd of Muslims in early July.

“We then submitted before the court the address of our leader Tapan Ghosh along with consents signed by their guardians. The JJB approved our plea,” said Brajendra Nath Sil, an advocate and member of Hindu Samhati.

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

“They can feel at home here,” Ghosh told HT. “They were initially in a state of shock but nearly six months have passed since the incident and they have largely recovered from the trauma.”

While police investigation revealed that the reckless Facebook post that triggered communal clashes that went on for three days was a result of rivalry that grew between the friends, both of whom passed their 10 level exam this year.

At Ghosh’s place, the boys are spending time mostly between themselves. They have become friends again.

Bengal-based Hindu Samhati, which is also spreading organisation in Jharkhand and Assam, took up the cause of the boys soon after they were nabbed by the police.

“Their families were in shock and under pressure from local authorities for not pursuing legal methods to get the boys released. Had we not intervened, the lives of the boys would have been doomed,” said Devdutta Maji, vice-president of Hindu Samhati.

In July the police initially produced both of them in a court, showing them as adults. But later they were shifted from jail to juvenile shelter after Hindu Samhati’s lawyer established in court that both were minors.

Members of Hindu Samhati recovered the school leaving certificate of one of the accused from the vandalised house of one of the boys. In court it was furnished as the proof of age.

The JJB has also instructed that immediate steps should be taken to resume education for both. However, since their school is close to their home - they cannot go within 50 km of their home -- arrangements are being made for their admission in some other school.

First Published: Dec 21, 2017 13:14 IST