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Quarrel between two teenage friends triggered Basirhat communal clash in Bengal

Investigators say one teenager used his former friend’s Facebook profile for a blasphemous post that sparked communal clashes in Basirhat last month.

kolkata Updated: Aug 19, 2017 10:16 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Basirhat,Communal violence,Facebook post
Communal violence scorched Basirhat and Baduria areas in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district early July after an offensive Facebook post.(HT FILE PHOTO)

A quarrel between two teenagers was at the root of the blasphemous Facebook post on July 2 that triggered communal clashes in Bengal’s Baduria-Basirhat areas, leaving one dead, more than a dozen injured and scores of shops and houses vandalised, investigators have found.

Investigation has revealed that Suman (name changed), the 17-year-old boy from whose profile the morphed photo was posted on Facebook, did not post it in the first place.

A special team comprising officers from North 24 Parganas police and the special operation group of CID is investigating the case.

“Suman had two profiles. The first was opened with the help of his one-time friend Prantik (name changed), who knew the password. Later, the two fell out and Prantik changed the password of Suman’s profile. This forced Suman to open a new account. On July 2, Prantik posted the photo from Suman’s first account and tagged the second account with it. The entire blame fell on Suman,” an investigating officer told HT on condition of anonymity.

Both the minors were arrested and continue to be behind bars. The two had been friends since 2014 but fell out around May-June this year.

The communal flare-up that took place continued for almost a week. The police have so far arrested more than 100 people in connection with violence between July 3 and July 6.

Suman was arrested that very night but a mob set his house on fire the next day, apart from attacking the Baduria police station with the demand that he be handed over to them.

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

Prantik, who had left the area in the second week of July went to his brother-in-law’s place in New Delhi. He was arrested on August 10 from a train at Asansol station while on his way back home.

“Right from the time of his arrest, Suman maintained that he did not post the morphed picture. Later he named Prantik as a suspect. It took some time to ascertain if Prantik, indeed, could have had some role. In the meantime, Prantik left the area. Around August 8-9, he got a call from his school, asking him to appear for registration for the higher secondary exam. He was returning along with his elder sister and some other relatives. We picked him up when the train entered Asansol station,” an investigating officer said.

Incidentally, the police treated both the minors as adults and produced them before a court, slapping against them charges of deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings, and for publishing obscene material, under various sections of the IT Act.

Prantik was born on June 16, 2000 and Suman on July 6 the same year.

Both of them passed the 10th standard exam this year and should have been tried by the Juvenile Justice Board. Suman was sent to a juvenile home in North 24 Parganas on August 5 after spending a month in jail.

When Prantik was produced before the court of additional chief judicial magistrate, Basirhat, on August 11, Bivas Chatterjee, the government pleader who specialises on cyber crime, told the court that Prantik was the ‘main culprit’ and that the IP address from which the post was made on Facebook led to Prantik’s mobile. The police have seized the phone.

Police sources, however, said that they are not giving Suman a clean chit and that he had some ‘minor involvement’, owing to which the case against him will be pursued in JJB.

Prantik’s father, who runs a small grocery shop, told HT that Suman and his son were good friends and Suman used to visit their home.

“My wife used to treat Suman like her own son but later Prantik and Suman had a quarrel. I am sure that Prantik is being framed. Besides, the police misled the court and produced him as an adult,” he said.

Prantik was remanded to 14 days’ police custody and will be produced in court on August 25, when the family’s lawyer plans to submit all documents to prove his age.

“The police, in both cases, produced the minors in court as adults,” said Brajendranath Roy, a lawyer associated with the right-wing group Hindu Samhati, which has extended all legal help to both the families. Roy had also drawn the court’s attention over Suman’s age.

“Let them produce documents in court and prove that he is a minor. The court will act accordingly,” North 24 Parganas superintendent of police C Sudhakar said, adding that the police have arrested more than 100 people in connection with rioting.

Police said the morphed photo in question existed on the internet since 2008 but the text was in English. Prantik allegedly got the English text replaced with Bangla. Police are also trying to verify if he took anyone’s help in editing the image.

First Published: Aug 19, 2017 10:16 IST