13 Days on, Midnapur Police Evasive on Breakthrough in Muslim Man’s Lynching

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A community leader said while handing Sheikh Paltu’s body to the family following the post mortem, “the police asked them to bury him within hours in the presence of only close family members.

Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India

NEW DELHI – Thirteen days have passed since Sheikh Paltu, a 32-year-old Muslim mason, was beaten to death by a group of men from Hindu community in West Bengal’s Midnapore town. Ever since, the town’s Muslim community is protesting against the suspected case of lynching, but crime has gone largely unreported in the media.

According to the family members and neighbours of the Paltu, on March 15, he was on his way home on a bicycle at around 1 am when he was waylaid and brutally assaulted. Hours later, his body was found by the police lying by the road side in the middle of a Hindu-dominated locality, Tolapara.

The police are said to have filed a case of murder and detained at least eight men in the case. Clarion India contacted SHO of Kotwali Police Station of Midnapore town, but he declined to divulge any information in the case as he was not authorised to speak to the media. Repeated calls from this correspondent to the Superintendent of Police of West Midnapore district, of which Midnapore town is the headquarters, went unanswered.

A Muslim community leader who did not wish to be named said that he found Paltu’s body “full of bruises, from the head to toes”.

Making a serious allegation against the police, he said, “The police seem to be trying to downplay the case. While handing Paltu’s body to the family following post mortem, the police asked them to bury him within a few hours, that too, in the presence of only close family members.”

According to a report by the West Bengal’s largest circulated Bengali language newspaper, Anandabazar Patrika, the police are investigating whether there was any old enmity between Paltu and the accused. Some of the accused reportedly said that Paltu was a thief and he was in the locality that night with the intent to commit theft.

Paltu had called his friend, Sheikh Rajesh, before breathing his last. He told Rajesh that he was being assaulted.

Rajesh recalled Paltu telling him on phone, “Please come and save my life. They are beating me badly.”

Rajesh confirmed that Paltu’s only source of income was masonry. “He was not a thief at all,” he stressed.

Calling the killing of her husband unwarranted and unjust, Paltu’s wife Afsana Begum told Clarion India, “None among those who knew him closely can say that he was a thief.”

“Those who saw his body in the hospital said that his mouth was filled with sand. They stuffed sand down his throat. He died a painful death brutally tortured by his tormentors.”

She asserted that the killers of her husband must be brought to justice.

Meanwhile, members of the Muslim community of Midnapore have staged a demonstrations demanding justice for the family. They demanded that the government provide monetary compensation to the family.

Paltu is survived by his wife and two children, including a 12-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son.

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