TENUOUS PEACE returned to Hazinagar and Halisahar at North-24 Parganas, as shops reopened on Wednesday following last week’s violence. Many, however, are yet to return to their abandoned homes, said local councillors. Amidst this, the process of providing compensation to the riot-affected victims has begun, said officials.
Communal clashes at Hazinagar and Halisahar, which began last Wednesday, had left several people injured. An estimated 30 homes and several shops were either ransacked or set on fire, said police. Police claimed the trigger for the violence was the alleged flinging of a low-intensity bomb at a Muharram procession last Wednesday. In the ensuing violence, a number of Hindu homes were allegedly attacked.
Teams of state armed forces, including Counter Insurgency Force (CIF) and Rapid Action Force (RAF), continue to conduct marches along the riot-affected areas. “We are trying to convey to the people that though they are afraid right now, forces of evil and hatred cannot win. Everyone must try and work towards a solution because communal disharmony will affected everyone,” said an officer.
With shops opening on Wednesday, many began the painful task of going through their gutted homes to rescue belongings that could still be salvaged. “Everything in my house has been completely burnt. I went there after almost a week… we can no longer recognise the house we had grown up in. I think someone threw a bomb which burnt the entire place down. I managed to rescue some notebooks, which miraculously survived and some utensils,” said Mohammad Anwar, a resident of Masjidpara in Hazinagar.
He added, “We are talking to police and have asked permission to take out a peace march in the area. We are trying to get people from both communities and their leaders to sit down and come to an accord, so this kind of violence isn’t repeated.”
BJP councillor of ward 23 at Halishahar, Ravishankar Singh, said municipal officers of Naihati and Halishahar had begun the process of tallying the number of vehicles and properties that had been damaged in the violence. “The situation is peaceful now. We have spoken to different people in the area. As of now, 12 homes have completely been destroyed in the violence. We have passed on the details to the municipality and the district administration,” he said.
He, however, added that many who had fled their homes following the violence are yet to return. “Many Hindus are afraid, particularly those who stay in areas that have a Muslim majority. But I have told them to not be afraid and return. After all, we all have to live in peace and amicably. People must have faith in the law,” said Singh.
Despite repeated attempts, IG (Law and Order) Anuj Sharma couldn’t be contacted for comments.
While the state government has claimed that the clashes were not “communal” in nature, and a result of personal enmity, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has tweeted condemning “communal terrorism”.