The family of Mahesh Mondal (42), a porter, lost its sole breadwinner when he became the first casualty of violence that broke out in Saldanga Bikasnagar area of Ranigunj near Asansol on March 26 over a Ram Navami procession. Mahesh, hailing from Lakkhisarai in Bihar, had returned from work at around noon, after initial clashes broke out in Ranigunj. He was killed when he went to relieve himself in Karbala Maidan, adjacent to his village. His death marked the beginning of a series of communal clashes in the industrial towns of Ranigunj and Asansol, which has led to at least three deaths being confirmed officially so far.
“He came home to avoid trouble. Then, after having his food, he went to the nearby Karbala field to relieve himself. The residents from the other side of the field started pelting stones, bricks and bombs at him. Some of them chased my husband and started hitting him with blunt weapons, almost smashing his face. Then they started to lob crude bombs. For hours, we could not recover the body. I went to the spot and dragged the body home,” said Nutan Devi (38), Mondal’s wife. The couple has two children — Sonu (18) and Radhika (10).
“We first took him to a government hospital, from where he was shifted to Marwari hospital and then again to a private hospital, where he was declared brought dead,” said Nutan. Locals alleged that police refused to help, despite repeated calls to them. “Ultimately, all the womenfolk went to Ranigunj police station and gheraoed it for hours. It was in the evening that they sent policemen to save us. By that time, some houses were already ransacked,” said Sabita Paswan, a local resident.
“Every year, Ram Navami processions are organised in our locality. This year, it was bigger, with many from outside joining,” said Chanda Mahato, a local. Seven days after the clashes broke out, the situation continued to be tense, a police officer posted in the locality said.