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To rebuild lives & homes, kin of Birbhum victims plan their return

The surviving family members of the eight victims who were charred to death following a TMC leader’s murder at Bogtui village in Birbhum district last week are planning to return to their village to rebuild their lives and houses.

Written by Ravik Bhattacharya , Atri Mitra | Rampurhat |
Updated: March 28, 2022 3:46:27 pm
Rampurhat killings, Rampurhat violence, Birbhum killings, Birbhum violence, West Bengal violence, Calcutta HC, CFSL, 8 dead in Birbhum violence, Birbhum violence deaths, Indian ExpressMihilal Sheikh at his mother-in-law’s house. Partha Paul

The surviving family members of the eight victims who were charred to death following a TMC leader’s murder at Bogtui village in Birbhum district last week are planning to return to their village to rebuild their lives and houses.

In contrast, the family of slain TMC leader Bhadu Sheikh fears for their lives and wonders if they can ever go back.

Families of both the sides are currently living in their relatives’ homes in nearby villages for safety. “We do not know when we will return or whether we will ever,” says Tabila Bibi, wife of Bhadu who was the deputy pradhan of Barsal Gram Panchayat. After her husband’s final rites, Tabila, Zarina — wife of Bhadu’s brother Babur — and their children fled to Tabila’s paternal house in Khostogora village, 35km away from Bogtui. Babur was killed in January, 2021. A police team has been deployed outside the house.

Tabila’s apprehension reflects a churn in the village’s power balance. With Bhadu’s death and the subsequent killings of eight people (mostly women and children) in the fire, the balance is tilting against his family. Bhadu allegedly ran an extortion and land grab syndicate.

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“In January, 2021, my husband’s brother was murdered. But our family stayed on because we had my husband. Now, he is brutally murdered. Five members of my family have been arrested and one detained. How do you think we can return to the village?” asks Tabila.

Babur’s wife, Jarina Bibi, agrees with Tabila. “My brother-in-law has been murdered, and my two sons arrested. Police have made up a serious case against them. I do not know whether we will see them again. If this is the situation, how can we return to Bogtui? It is unsafe for us there.”

Five members of Bhadu’s family have been arrested in connection with the recovery of the eight charred bodies, including that of two children, and setting a dozen houses on fire on March 22. Among the arrested are Babur’s two sons — Tausif (19) and Ramzan (18) — Bhadu’s father-in-law Jalal Dewan (56), brother-in-law Nayan Dewan (31) and another relative. Bhadu’s brother-in-law Rajesh Sheikh was detained on Friday.

On the other hand, Mihilal Sheikh and his brother Banirul, family members of the charred victims, have taken shelter at the house of the former’s mother-in-law at Sandhyajal village, around 50 km from Bogtui. Mihilal’s mother Noor Nehar Bibi, wife Roushanara Bibi and eight-year-old daughter Omnehani Khatun, a class 5 student, are among the dead.

Banirul lost his wife Jehanara Bibi, daughter Marjina and her husband Kaji Sajidur Rehman to the fire.

Mihilal and Banirul, who are eyewitnesses to the Bogtui killings, fled the village after miscreants torched houses with men, women and children inside.

Mihilal says, “We will return to the village in one or two days. The administration has provided security to us. We will have to see what damage the house has suffered. We will have to rebuild it. We will have to rebuild our lives too. We will also talk to the investigating agency and administration as when we can start repair and rebuilding work of the charred houses. Thereafter, there is no reason why we cannot stay in our homes in Bogtui.”

During her visit to Bogtui March 24, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced compensation, including Rs2 Lakh for house repair, to the families of the victims.

“We are in touch with the administration and CBI officers, and we are co-operating with them,” says Mihilal.

Banirul says they can’t stay in relative’s house forever., “We have no other option but to stay in Bogtui.” Other family members of the charred victims are also living in their relatives’ houses in Bataspur.

In Bogtui, the families of Bhadu’s associates plan to leave the village on account of insecurity. Some of the associates have been arrested. Jyoti Bibi, whose husband Raston Sheikh was arrested, says, “My husband was Bhadu’s associate, but he had nothing to do with the incident. However, the situation is bad in the village, and we are feeling insecure. I am requesting the administration to release my husband. We will leave Bogtui and never come back.”

Women, children and the elderly have confined themselves to their houses in the village while most men have fled. At every corner, police personnel have been posted. After the High Court order, CCTV cameras have been installed for surveillance.

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