ON MARCH 28, a day after communal violence over Ram Navami celebrations spread to Asansol in West Bengal, 42-year-old Pratima Devi allegedly protested near the Asansol North police station, demanding that the police pay a visit to her locality Ram Krishna Dangal – one of the worst-hit areas. There, her family alleges, she fell unconscious after the police fired tear gas shells during a clash and was mauled by a police car.
While the car sped off, she was taken to a hospital, only to be declared brought dead on arrival, said her son Sandip Routh (21), who claimed he was present at the incident spot — Roopkatha Cinema Hall at Dhadka area, which is around 500 metres from the police station. The police denied that any such an incident had taken place. “Not a fact,” said Asansol Police Commissioner L M Meena.
Asansol Mayor Jitendra Tiwari, however, said Rs 2 lakh will be given to the family as compensation. “I have received a complaint regarding the incident and sent it to higher ups for a proper investigation,” he added.
Communal clashes had started in Ranigunj near Asansol in West Burdwan on March 26, where 42-year-old Mahesh Mondal was killed over a Ram Navami rally. The next day, during another such rally in Asansol, clashes claimed the 16-year-old son of a local Imam. Later, the riots spread to various areas, including O K Road, Chandmari, Ram Krishna Dangal Para and Gosain Para in Asansol.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sandip Routh said: “Clashes were taking place across my locality on Wednesday. My mother and other local women protested near the police station and asked the police to save us. I was with her. The police were firing tear gas shells. My mother became unconscious and fell. As we raised an alarm, some policemen on a Bolero tried to rush and the car ran over my mother… and sped off.”
“We kept on calling the policemen, who were present there, for help. They just stood there. The body lay there for more than half an hour. We took her the district hospital, where doctors initially said they are trying to revive her but after five minutes, they said they can’t help… then we took her to a private hospital where she was declared brought dead on arrival,” said Sandip.
Besides Sandip, Pratima is survived by her husband Sailendra Routh, son Sajeeb (18) and daughter Anjali (19). While Sailendra is a casual staff at Asansol Municipal Corporation, the family supplies ‘chapatis’ to a local canteen. Anjali, a Class XI student at Chandmari Balbodhon High School, has missed her exams due to the clashes.
“We are scared of the police. The area is still tense and we cannot leave out of fear. Also, if we lodge a complaint, we will be targeted by the police. Therefore, we have decided to lodge a complaint with the mayor,” said Sailendra.
“We are poor people. We are in a huge debt… this house is also mortgaged because I had to get my two daughters (one had died) and nieces married. Now this happened. We are ruined,” he added.