Howrah: The rioters in Dhulagarh gutted neighbourhoods, ransacked properties and threatened to kill entire families, say these eyewitnesses. The accounts of riots fly in the face of Mamata Banerjee government’s claim that “nothing has happened” in this town of the Howrah district of West Bengal.
The first witness describes how the rioters from a Taziya (Shi’ah Muslim procession on the occasion of Muharram) ransacked all his belongings.
The first witness says
This is Banerjeepur, Dhulagori, Uttarpara. Suddenly we heard two explosions from the Damanghata end. We heard there was some trouble surrounding a Taziya procession. Then they turned around to assault us.
Voiceover: Is this your house?
Yes, it is mine. We couldn’t understand anything. Before we could make out what was going on, about 30 bombs were hurled at us. We stay here with all our kin that includes women and children. We are locked in this place out of fear. My wife and sister-in-law fell at the feet of the policemen that day. They pleaded to the cops, “They’re burning our belongings, looting our jewellery. Please protect us.”
Voiceover: How big was the mob?
At least 700-800.
I see that the books, notebooks, admit cards… of your children have all been burnt.
Yes, they burnt everything. Nothing is left, sir.
We saw another house looted.
Yes, every house here has been looted.
Did the rioters come with a plan?
I think so.
We heard they came in an ambulance laden with bombs?
Yes, I heard that they came by ambulances from a distance.
And they showered bombs indiscriminately?
I found petrol all over the place. Where did they get so much of petrol and so many bombs from?
How do we know that, sir? It seems they had planned it beforehand.
They threw so many petrol bombs!
You can see it, sir. Our wives and children escaped along the drain nearby.
Was it this room that was plundered?
Yes, and they made a bonfire here. Just two burnt pieces of bed-sheets remain.
Did the police arrive finally?
Yes, they did. The police came around 4 or 5 PM and recorded the statements of a few of us.
Where were you at the time?
I hadn’t yet returned from work. My wife whisked away the children to safety behind the cremation ground.
That must be a horrifying experience!
Did the local MLA pay a visit?
No. [This video ends here. The translations of the other narrations appear below the videos.]
The second voice is heard saying how an entire neighbourhood of Banerjeepara was wiped out.
The woman in the third video describes how rioters barged into her house and threatened that they would slit the throats of her family members.
The man in the second video is heard saying
This is Banerjeepara. It had 100 odd houses, out of which none stands today. They have burnt down all the houses. They brought down the roofs, demolished the walls. There is not one human being here. They have fled to Kolkata and other faraway places. All their belongings, jewellery, cash and whatever little belongings these poor people had has been plundered.
The women and the man in the third video say
They came from all directions. They were about to slit our throats. They threatened us, “Don’t utter a word!” About 8 to 10 people blocked the gate.
Voiceover: Who were they?
I can’t say. They were all masked. But I can tell they were like goons.
They just got into your house?
They just barged in and thrashed our men. They went up to the third floor and wielded bare knives from there. I have a granddaughter. They threatened to kill her with a knife. And then they left.
Did they run away?
Why would they flee? They were many.
How many were they?
The second woman: About 2,000-2,500.
The first woman continues: Yes. My granddaughter pleaded with them, “My father and uncle have done nothing. Please spare them.” Then they held a chopper on her neck. She is appearing for her higher secondary examinations(in a few months), and she is left with no books. They have burnt everything to ashes.
They burnt everything?
So she can’t appear for her exams this time. Where is she now?
She has moved to her aunt’s.
How many houses have they burnt down like this?
A man answers: More than a hundred. And this is only about this neighbourhood.
How did the government react?
The hooligans went about their job unhindered from 11 AM to 3:30 PM. There was no trace of an administration till then. Some policemen did arrive. But the rioters hurled so many bombs at them that they had to withdraw. An officer sustained injuries after which they went back (to their base). We ran for our lives through the gardens then.
Has anybody been arrested?
They arrested some Hindus from this neighbourhood and some Muslims from the adjacent one.
Were the Hindus involved in rioting, too?
No, but that does not matter. The police apprehended whoever they could get hold of.
Was this a Hindu-Muslim riot?
No, Muslims alone were the assailants.
The second woman speaks again: Some shops were burnt nearby. The trouble of that area spilt over.
The man continues: There was a time when the people of Dhulagarh were not allowed to celebrate either Durga Puja or Eid. The festivities resumed after the Mamata Banerjee government was formed.
This time, Milad-un-Nabi, which they used to commemorate inside their village, was sought to be observed in the Hindu neighbourhood as well. They decided to take the procession through our colony. [The video ends here.]