Kolkata: The video shared by the fact-finding team shows dingy serpentinous lanes with houses seamlessly bound with one another bearing the testimony of the violence that had erupted in the Bhatpara area post-Lok Sabha Election. According to the shared footages, these lanes that seem eerie now, houses residences ransacked by the goons, some walls of the no dilapidated homes now have Jai Sri Ram and Modi written on them.
A fact-finding team led by Association of Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) reached Bhatpara on June 30. The team comprising around 20 participants split into a group of two, one headed towards Kakinara and the other towards Jagatdal, in Bhatparata to do a detailed survey of the situation.
Speaking to eNewsroom, immediately after the visit, Altaf Ahmed, Assistant Secretary of APDR said, “APDR’s fact-finding team had visited various affected areas of Bhatpara and Jagatdal. We have interacted with the people there. During this interaction, we came to know that four people were killed, during the tension that gripped the area. Of these four, two were killed by police firing. However, during the visit, we realised that the biggest loss was that of humanity. In this area, people of both the community had been living peacefully for around 40 years. But now distrust seems to have seeped in.”
Asit Roy, a social activist associated with Medha Patkar’s National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM), who was also part of the fact-finding team said, “The fact that we social activists are reaching out to the victims of the Bhatpara and Kakinara victims after 40 days is definitely a sad thing. We should have reached out to these people who have been tortured for these many days in the name of turf capturing.” He paused and said, “The problems definitely began immediately after Arjun Singh shifted his loyalty to the Bharatiya Janata Party and with his performance he is being rewarded with his son and brother being given due importance and position in the party. But the problem that the common man is facing is beyond political rivalry.”
Election Commission and Not Mamata to be blamed
Narrating his observation on the basis of his interaction with the people of the affected area, he cited examples of how shops were looted, houses plundered and shops captured and converted into BJP offices in these 40 days. “People need to understand that the Kakinara and Bhatpara burned under the observation of the Election Commission. Right from the time when violence broke out in this area, the entire area was under the observation of the central forces. Not a single local police were deputed here. So, all the violence, rioting and looting took place right under the nose of the CRPF and BSF forces, just stood like mere spectators. Here not Mamata Banerjee but the Election Commission is to be blamed for not maintaining law and order or for allowing this alleged communal flare-up for this long a time, where Muslims, in particular, have had to bear the brunt for not aligning with the BJP,” said Asit.
He then added, “However, given the fact that most of the people who have been tortured are her voters, it’s now the moral responsibility of the CM to stand by them.”
Locals believe the Bhatpara episode as communal, not political riot
Adding to that social activist Moutuli Nag Sarkar, who was part of the fact-finding team that visited Kakinara area said, “The general public that we interacted with Kakinara bazaar, Chalta Road and Tina Godam area, clearly termed it as a communal riot and not political turf capturing, as they believe that maximum of those who have been affected are Muslims.” On being asked, if there was some truth in the claim of Muslims being most affected, she said, “Yes, mostly the Muslim houses and shops that have been looted.”
Adding to that photographer Soujanya Sinha Roy, who accompanied APDR’s team said, “I have been part of most of the visiting team of the civil society in this area. I have witnessed a lot of shops that have been completely stripped off their goods and cash. The attackers even broke almirahs to take away all the expensive belongings of the affected families.”
Not just cash, but valid identity proofs also looted
Moutuli added, “While we were meeting the affected families, many told us that attackers, in particular, looted their documents like Voter Identity Card, Adhaar Card etc, in addition to looting their cash, pieces of jewellery along with their groceries. The families believe that this was being done to force them to vacate their houses and move on to some other place. At least two meat shops had been captured by the goons and converted into BJP party offices. The affected families despite staying there are in constant fear.”
On being asked about the compensation they received, she said, “Compensation as little as Rs 6300 can’t be enough to help these affected families start their lives afresh. They have been looted in a way that they have to start everything from scratch. Each family has been looted goods and cash worth INR 600000.”
The crisis that looms over these families that have been stripped off their identity proofs if NRC is implemented in Bengal, she said, “It definitely will create some problem. We will be highlighting this point in the APDR fact-finding report which will be published soon. However, we have also had a word, with the local police, who have committed to having the documents recovered. As of now, 71 arrests have been made.”