Post-election violence: House to house, eight times in two months, 40 families say on the run

TMC supporters Manda Shikari and Tuktuki Nayia deny that any of them chased the NHRC team when it came to the area. “It were Shanu and others with the NHRC team who taunted, abused us. When we protested, Central forces beat us up,” says Naiya.

ON MAY 2, the results had just started showing signs of Trinamool returning to power when the men arrived, going house to house, ransacking them, breaking some. By the end of the day, 40 families of a colony located on KPC Medical College grounds in Jadavpur had fled. All BJP supporters or workers say TMC threats have kept them away two-and-a-half months later.

Recently, when a team of the NHRC, investigating post-poll violence in Bengal on the orders of the Calcutta High Court, visited the area, they were chased away, allegedly by TMC supporters — bringing to limelight one of the incidents the BJP has been highlighting in the state. In its report, the NHRC accused the Mamata Banerjee government of turning a blind eye to the violence.

Of the 40 families, only eight agreed to meet with The Indian Express at their new locations, while two others spoke over the phone. Two families met by the roadside, saying they were afraid of giving away where they were. Many claimed they had approached police but it didn’t register a complaint. Finally, some sent a complaint to the NHRC.

Police say they have made two arrests, for one incident of violence in Dompara area of the colony, but did not share their names or other details. Both local TMC leader Alok Deb and BJP leader Rinku Naskar (its candidate from Jadavpur) say they are not aware of any arrest or any case being lodged in the matter. The TMC also claims it had no role in what happened, and blames BJP “goondas” for the violence before they left the place.

Newly elected Jadavpur MLA, the TMC’s Debabrata Majumder, did not respond to calls or messages.

Rashid Munir Khan, Deputy Commissioner, South Suburban Division (Jadavpur), denies anyone had been forced to leave. “Some people own houses in the area but don’t stay there, hence those are vacant… However, I visited the spot again a few days back and asked people to come to us if there was an issue. We will reinstate them.”

About the violence, Khan says, “There was a specific incident in Dompara area in May between two groups, in which portion of a house was damaged. A complaint was lodged and two people were arrested.” Khan and other officers at the Jadavpur Police Station refuse to divulge anything more, on the ground that the matter is “sub-judice”.

Among those who claim to be on the run are Megha and Amit Dey, who say they moved from place to place with their 3-year-old son, before finally renting the room they are now in at Sonarpur, 6 km away. The 7 ft by 7 ft space is almost entirely occupied by a bed, and the Deys share a toilet with several families.

The KPC Medical College colony houses either employees of the college or their family members, some of them here for years. Amit works as an assistant with a private doctor, though he hasn’t been able to go to work in two months.

Megha recalls that on the afternoon of May 2, they got word that TMC supporters had started gathering in the area. “We hid in the house of our neighbour. Around 1.30 pm, TMC supporters came and started ransacking, pulling down houses. We watched as they broke open our door… They even took the money,” says Megha, adding that her brother Shanu Naskar is a small-time BJP office-bearer, which is what drew the TMC ire.

Once it was midnight, Megha and Amit went back home to salvage what they could. By 2 am, they say, they left for the home of a relative of Megha’s in Ballygunj. “After a week we went to our aunt’s home. Three weeks back, she gave us some money and we came here to this rented room.”

A month after the incident, Megha says she begged some local TMC leaders, and they let the family collect belongings such as a broken almirah and bed. “But they said they will not allow us to stay.”

About 7 km away in Kasba area, Megha’s brother Shanu, 31, is staying in a room, belonging to a family friend, with Raja Das, 34, Shiba Naskar, 26, Rahul Balmiki, 32, and Rahul Das, 26. The five claim to have changed their location eight times in two months — hopping from one relative’s or friend’s home to another in Tollygunj, Bansdroni, Bijoygarh, Mukundopur, Mukundopur Bazar, Topsia and Jadavpur area.

Shanu, a contractual employee with KPC Medical College, says that as “TMC goons” follow them everywhere, they can’t go to work, and the money they had is running out. “BJP leaders help us from time to time, with Rs 1,000-1,500 or ration. But with that, we can only afford rice, potatoes, daal. At least two months we did not eat fish.”

Former goalkeeper for Mohammedan Sporting Club junior football team, Shanu is well-known in the area and is the BJP president for Booth No. 177 in Jadavpur constituency. On May 2, Shanu had been the BJP counting agent at a centre.

“About 1 pm, I came to know that TMC supporters were targeting the BJP office and houses of party supporters. They threw a bomb, threatened women, looted gold ornaments, cash, and other belongings. They broke our TV, fridge,” Shanu says, adding that he, his wife and children were threatened to leave. Only his parents were allowed to stay as they are government officials, employed with the hospital, he says.

“After 10 days, my wife and children went back, but TMC leaders again turned them out. They are now at a relative’s house. We went to police but they refused to take a complaint. Then we filed a written complaint with the NHRC.”

Sutapa Gharami agrees to meet but only at a roadside stall in Santoshpur. Her husband Kashinath has been on the run since the results, she says, adding that the two of them were drawn to the BJP after they along with 20-odd others, among a group of 70 who had protested seeking PPE kits and other Covid safeguards, were laid off by KPC Hospital.

Breaking down, Gharami says she never imagined the violence she saw on May 2. “I have been living her since birth… They still make threatening phone calls, shower obscenities.”

Brothers Suraj (28), Raja (24) and Chotu (23) Mullick, who also meet by the roadside, in Garia, are in the process of shifting home again. Raja says they have been on the move since May 2. On June 22, as Suraj was passing by the area, he was set upon by “at least 50 TMC supporters and locals”, leaving him hospitalised, he adds.

It was the “corruption and extortion” by local TMC leaders that had pushed them towards the BJP in 2017, the brothers say.

The BJP office in one corner of the KPC Medical College colony is now rubble. Nearby stand a row of partially demolished and ransacked houses, among them Mana Adhikari’s. A 50-year-old neighbour says they have been threatened not to talk to outsiders. “They looted Mana’s house in front of us,” she says.

Claiming that “Shanu Naskar, Suraj Mullick, Mana, Chotka and a few other BJP cadres are basically criminals”, TMC leader Alok Deb alleges, “After the results, they themselves ransacked their houses and left. They would oppress people, get drunk and harass women. People were upset with them, and they realised the danger after losing and fled.”

TMC supporters Manda Shikari and Tuktuki Nayia deny that any of them chased the NHRC team when it came to the area. “It were Shanu and others with the NHRC team who taunted, abused us. When we protested, Central forces beat us up,” says Naiya.

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