Asansol: Hours after his 16-year-old son was found dead, becoming the fourth victim of violence triggered by Ram Navami processions across the state since Sunday, Maulana Imdadul Rashidi, Imam of a mosque in Asansol, on Thursday presided over a congregation where he appealed for peace. He told the crowd that he would leave the mosque and the town if there was any retaliation for his son’s death.
Sibtulla Rashidi, who appeared for his Class X board exams this year, was reported missing after communal clashes in Rail Par area of Asansol on Tuesday afternoon. According to sources, he was picked up by a mob. His body was recovered late on Wednesday night and identified on Thursday. He is suspected to have been beaten to death.
“There was chaos outside when he went out. He was picked up by a group of miscreants. My older son alerted the police, but he was made to wait at the police station. We were later informed that a body had been recovered by the police. He was identified in the morning,” Rashidi, 48, told The Indian Express.
As thousands of people gathered at the Eidgah Maidan in the afternoon, after Sibtulla was buried, Rashidi appealed for peace. “I want peace. My boy has been taken away. I don’t want any more families to lose their loved ones. I don’t want any more houses to burn. I have already told the gathering that I will leave Asansol if there is any kind of retaliation. I told them that if you love me, you will not raise a finger,” said Rashidi, Imam of Noorani Mosque in Chetladanga Nadi Par.
“I have been an Imam for the last 30 years. It is important that I give the right message to the people — a message of peace. I need to get over my personal loss. People of Asansol are not like this. This is a conspiracy,” he said.
“The Imam was instrumental in calming the angry youth and cooperated with the administration. We are proud of him. Despite the pain he is suffering following the loss of a son, he appealed for peace,” said Jitendra Tiwari, Mayor of Asansol.
“We did not expect this from a father who has just lost his son. This is an example, not only for Bengal but for the entire country. People started to cry after his speech. I was present there… I was awestruck. There was anger among the youth after the body was found, but the message for peace struck the right chord. He is popular in the area. If he had not appealed for peace, Asansol would have been caught in a fire,” said Mohammed Nasim Ansari, councillor of Ward 25 in Asansol, where the victim’s family lives.
Meanwhile Union Minister of Sate Babul Supriyo has been booked under section of Rioting and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty)”, a senior police official revealed to the media.
He allegedly, threatened to “skin” some people who shouted slogans against him when he visited his constituency of Asansol, one of the areas hit by communal violence following Ram Navami processions across the state.
According to sources, Supriyo was on his way to a relief camp in Kalyanpur, in Asansol, when he was stopped by the police. He was booked for violating prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC and under Sections 146, 147, 148 (rioting) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), a non-bailable offence. He is alleged to have assaulted senior IPS officer Rupesh Kumar.
As some people approached him, news channels showed Supriyo telling them, “Aami ki apnader ke bolbo lorai koro? Ami chole jabo, apnader opor goli cholbe (Will I ask you to fight? I will leave and you will come under fire).”
But when a person asked him to “go back” and leave them alone, Supriyo was heard shouting, “Chamra guthiye debo ekdom… (Will skin them alive).”
“As the local MP, it is my responsibility to stand by the people who are in trouble, but the police, without any reason, stopped me from meeting them. Since morning, I have been trying to call up senior police officers and district officials, but they don’t have time to meet me. The Rapid Action Force surrounded me as if I am a criminal. When people want to share their plight with me, how can you stop me? As a minister, if the police tells me not to enter an area where prohibitory orders are in force, I will not break the law. Law and order is a state subject. I respect that, but this is not acceptable,” he said.
In a complaint at the Asansol South police station, Supriyo said: “I would like to lodge an official complaint against Rupesh Kumar (IPS) of West Bengal Police… for assaulting me and hitting me with his helmet, despite warning him several times not to touch me.”
Senior TMC leader and Mayor of Asansol Municipal Corporation, Jitendra Tiwari, accused Supriyo of trying to disturb peace in the area. “When Raniganj was burning, he was relaxing in a hotel. Now, they are trying to create trouble. This is not the time to do politics. I request them to let the police do their work,” he said.
Clashes broke out over a Ram Navami procession in Raniganj on Monday, leaving one person, Chhote Yadav, 35, dead and several police officers injured. It spread to neighboring Asansol the next day, where a 16-year-old youth, Sibtulla Rashidi, was killed.
On Sunday, two other people, S K Sahjahan in Purulia and Maqsood Khan in Kankinara, were killed in violence triggered by Ram Navami processions.