Hours after his 16-year-old son was found dead, becoming the fourth victim of violence triggered by Ram Navami processions across the state since Sunday, Maulana Imdadul Rashidi, Imam of a mosque in Asansol, on Thursday presided over a congregation where he appealed for peace. He told the crowd that he would leave the mosque and the town if there was any retaliation for his son’s death.
Sibtulla Rashidi, who appeared for his Class X board exams this year, was reported missing after communal clashes in Rail Par area of Asansol on Tuesday afternoon. According to sources, he was picked up by a mob. His body was recovered late on Wednesday night and identified on Thursday. He is suspected to have been beaten to death.
“There was chaos outside when he went out. He was picked up by a group of miscreants. My older son alerted the police, but he was made to wait at the police station. We were later informed that a body had been recovered by the police. He was identified in the morning,” Rashidi, 48, told The Indian Express.
As thousands of people gathered at the Eidgah Maidan in the afternoon, after Sibtulla was buried, Rashidi appealed for peace. “I want peace. My boy has been taken away. I don’t want any more families to lose their loved ones. I don’t want any more houses to burn. I have already told the gathering that I will leave Asansol if there is any kind of retaliation. I told them that if you love me, you will not raise a finger,” said Rashidi, Imam of Noorani Mosque in Chetladanga Nadi Par.
“I have been an Imam for the last 30 years. It is important that I give the right message to the people — a message of peace. I need to get over my personal loss. People of Asansol are not like this. This is a conspiracy,” he said.
“The Imam was instrumental in calming the angry youth and cooperated with the administration. We are proud of him. Despite the pain he is suffering following the loss of a son, he appealed for peace,” said Jitendra Tiwari, Mayor of Asansol.
“We did not expect this from a father who has just lost his son. This is an example, not only for Bengal but for the entire country. People started to cry after his speech. I was present there… I was awestruck. There was anger among the youth after the body was found, but the message for peace struck the right chord. He is popular in the area. If he had not appealed for peace, Asansol would have been caught in a fire,” said Mohammed Nasim Ansari, councillor of Ward 25 in Asansol, where the victim’s family lives.