Members of Muslim community put up roadblocks at different parts of the city from about 3 pm on Monday till late in to the night demanding the release of 63 children who had been intercepted from Sealdah station by officials of the Government Railway Police (GRP) on August 2.
The children reportedly arrived from different parts of Bihar, particularly from Purnea-Kishengunj belt and were headed to Pune for training in madrasa.
“We had been informed by the GRP about the children and we took custody of them and arranged for their stay on Sunday while informing officials of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) at Purnea. Late last night, the children were sent back to Purnea with police escort and the CWC there had been asked to verify their addresses and the claims that they were being taken to Maharashtra for higher studies. We could not take any risk,” said Ashokendu Sengupta, chairman, State Commission for Protection of Child rights.
He also said that next time when they travel, there should be a written certification of the identity of the children and their purpose of travel, issued by either the panchayat or the local CWC.
The blockades, late last evening at one stage seemed to be running out of control. The Kolkata police however, deployed RAF in different parts of the city as tension mounted and traffic came to a standstill for hours. The situation was finally diffused in the early hours of Tuesday.
The 63 children – all boys except one – aged between 6 and 17 years had been intercepted by officials of the GRP as they were boarding a train to Maharashtra at Sealdah Station. They were being accompanied by one madrasa teacher and his wife. It was found out that the police were tipped off by officials of CINI Asha Child Welfare Society.
The Agitators however, blamed the police. “It is unfair on their part. Only because there are so many Muslims travelling, they think they are going to be trained as terrorists. Do we now need passports to travel within our own country? They were little children who were going to study,” said Sharafat Abrar, one of the lead protestors.
Yesterday, members of Minority Youth Federation met Pratik Ghosh, superintendent of the government run Barasat social welfare home where the children were kept, demanding their release.