West Bengal: Muslims in Telinipara Recount the Horror of Violence and Arson

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Telinipara was a divided town gripped in an eerie silence where the communal faultlines had made two communities fall apart. — The Wire

The local Muslims alleged that the police were either late to react to the situation or in some cases, unabashedly sided with the violent mob. Videos shared with Clarion India claim to support the contention.

Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India

AN uneasy calm has enveloped the locality of Telinipara. Located 40 kilometers to the north of the city of Kolkata near Hooghly river, on May 12 the area saw a massive bout of communal violence that left dozens of homes in rubble.

The trigger for the violence was a minor altercation between members of Hindu and Muslim communities on May 10. That day, according to local Muslims, a few Hindu men passed unsolicited remarks on Muslim women in a market where they had gone to buy essentials.

“Ye dekha corona, see this is corona,” the men jeered at them. They went on to warn the shopkeepers against selling their wares to Muslims. The incident was followed by a news that some Muslim residents of the locality were found positive for Coronavirus.

Muslims say they complained about the matter to police, but they took no action. Their Hindu neighbours incensed by the complaint. This resulted in a squabble between two groups.

However, timely intervention of the police saved the situation. But later, the same issue turned out to be a trigger for a full-scale communal conflagration in a town which has a history of communal convulsions.

On May 12, a charged mob armed with petrol bombs descended on the locality and indulged in violence and arson.

Aftab Ahmad, a local activist said that the mob cut the water supply to a building where mostly Muslims live. When a municipal employee who is a Muslim went to repair the supply line, the goons assaulted him.

Saifullah outside his charred house, Telinipara. — The Wire

Following this, they started throwing petrol bombs. “They used petrol, acid and gas cylinders to set nearby buildings on fire.”

The goons went on the rampage vandalising Muslim properties and set fire to whatever came their way.  When some Muslim men resisted the open aggression, clashes broke out between the two groups.

“It was a riot committed by a well organised mob,” said Sarim (name changed), a Muslim teenager of Talinipara. His uncle’s house blew up when a gas cylinder exploded in the arson.

Sarim received burns on his hand while rescuing an old lady and a child who were stuck inside a house inferno.

Recounting the incident, he informed, “We rescued women and children and also tried to extinguish the fire using water.”

The violence lasted for four hours before the police could take control of the situation.  The locals allege that the mob used kerosene and petrol bombs to torch houses. “Such was the intensity of the bombs they threw that many houses were completely destroyed,” Sarim said.

As regards the rioters, he said they were huge in number consisting of both locals as well as outsiders.

When the mob went on setting the houses on fire, the inmates made a hasty retreat to rescue their lives. While many survivors have shifted to a rehabilitation camp set up in a public school, others are living with their relatives.

The Muslims blame two local Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leaders, Arjun Singh and Locket Chatterjee, for instigating violence. Chatterjee is the BJP MP from Hooghly.

Sarim said on May 11, a day after the squabble between the two communities, Chatterjee gave an interview in which he exhorted his supporters to resort to mob violence. “He said so many bad things about Muslim,” Sarim added.

The same BJP leaders are accusing the police of siding with Muslims while Muslim residents who bore the brunt of the violence accused the police of being partisan during the riots.

Sarim asks if the Police were in favour of Muslims, how then were the rioters able to burn Muslims houses.

The local Muslims alleged that the police were either late to react to the situation or in some cases, unabashedly sided with the violent mob. Videos shared with Clarion India claim to support the contention.

Forces are continued to be deployed in the area. However, Muslims residents gave credit for peace to an IPS officer, Thakur, deployed.

Rubina Khatun had a narrow escape from death. Muslims were reportedly subjected to name-calling and threats ever since some persons from their community had tested positive of Covid-19. — Photo courtesy: Timesnownews

A Muslim councillor, Hashim, and a businessman, Munnawa, are looking after the survivors of the violence. They provide for their food and clothing. Aftab, a social activist, is doing his bit to help the victims. In fact, he claimed that his group has been helping people of all hues throughout the lockdown.

The locals want the culprits exposed by the media and brought to justice. They say they don’t want any disturbance in future and want to live in peace with the Hindu community. “Hindus also yearn for communal amity,” Sarim said. “There is an internal discord among Hindus of the locality over why Arjun Singh brought outsiders to indulge in mob violence.”

According to Aftab, the BJP-RSS leaders are indulging in violence to gain political mileage by dividing the people on religious lines.

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