By Mahmud Hassan
A number of questions have been raised by the people of Samsherganj area in Murshidabad district, West Bengal, on role of the police in the murder of a social activist, Haji Akhtar Hossain. Since from the very beginning the police were trying to prove that this was an accident and not a murder, the ordinary people in the area doubt whether a fair post-mortem report is at all feasible. The police claim that the situation is under control but there is a palpable tension among people.
In Samsherganj area of the Murshidabad district, an anti-liquor movement has been going on for the last few years. For a concerted effort, people in the locality formed a civic body, Nagarik Adhikar Suraksha Manch, which includes people from different sections of the society such as social activists, local leaders, intellectuals and so on. They have been demanding the cancellation of the setting up of the proposed liquor factory near the Basudebpur bus stand. Akhtar Hossain, from Chachanda village of Samsherganj, Murshidabad, was one of those activists, who played a prominent role in the movement.
Unfortunately, on 10th November, 2013, Akhtar Hossain was attacked and killed by unknown assailants, when he was returning home from his pharmacy at Tarapur of Samsherganj block, Murshidabad. In this heinous crime, the local people suspect the hands of those people, who were about to set up the liquor factory. A day after the ‘murder’, some local people gathered at the place, near Tarapur, beside NH-34, where he was murdered. They demanded a proper investigation into the incident and exemplary punishment for the culprits. But the police lathi-charged and arrested few villagers, who took part in the protest. Later, the police arrested more people from their homes. Almost 40 people have been arrested so far by the police.
Akhtar Hossain’s brother, Harun Al Rashid said, ‘Akhtar Hossain was returning home on a Motorbike after closing his medicine shop at Basudebpur on 10th November around 10 pm. After hearing of his death, we quickly reached the under-construction National Highway 34, which is closed for vehicles and found his dead body. We recognized several injuries on his head, chest, and backrest, caused by a heavy iron rod and his tongue was out. So, we are sure that it is not a road accident, but a murder.’
On 13 November, the local people took out a procession mourning Akhtar Hossain’s death. They wore black ribbon on their shoulders. Around ten thousand people took part in that protest. A large number of women also came out to protest against the murder and to demand punishment for the culprits.
Various political parties also did not lose this chance to show their so-called sympathy to the family of the deceased. Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury, Member of Parliament from South Malda, visited Haji Akhtar’s family and promised a high level inquiry into the murder. The Congress party also organized a protest rally at the Dackbangla area. On the very next day, the CPIM held a rally in Basudebpur, where the local CPIM leader, Toab Ali, attended the rally. The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) observed a 12-hour bandh in Samsherganj, Suti and Farakka block.
‘Liquor consumption and the selling of illegal narcotics have become a serious problem in the area. Hossain was fighting against the menace. However, after he was killed and a murder complaint was lodged, the police arrested three members of his organization,’ said Aminul Islam, Congress block president of Samsherganj in Murshidabad.
When the police are supposed to arrest the culprits, they are deliberately trying to prove that it was an accident and arresting the protesters. The people have no doubt that the police are indirectly trying to help a group of people and protect their interest by arresting the local poor, helpless people. The obvious question is: Why are the police not arresting the culprits, and, instead, arresting people who are asking for justice and demanding for a proper investigation into the murder?
We expect good governance and the maintenance of proper law and order in the state of West Bengal and we hope that the police will conduct a proper investigation. The people of Samsherganj have made some genuine demands to the Government of West Bengal. Some of these are:
- Release of the 40 villagers, who are supposedly innocent and were arrested just for protesting against the murder.
- A proper probe into the murder of Akhtar Hossain.
- Immediate arrest of all those who are directly or indirectly involved in the murder.
- An immediate stop to the arrest and torture of the local people and the leaders of Nagarik Adhikar Suraksha Manch.
- Cancellation of the setting up of the proposed liquor factory near Basudebpur bus stand.
Mahmud Hassan is a Research Scholar at the University of Hyderabad.
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