AT SUPURDI in Purulia district, the house of the 21-year-old History (honours) student is known to everyone, not only because Trilochon Mahato was a BJP worker but also because he was the only one in the village to have a computer. However, the BJP had been a recent choice for the youth, who had emerged as the party’s go-to man for painting graffiti, and who was found hanging from a tree near his home on May 30. He would always support a party in opposition to the government of the state, and the 21-year-old’s 7-by-5 ft room is still adorned with a photo of Congress leader Sonia Gandhi.
Just 10 km away in Dava village, Dulal Kumar, 30, died under similar circumstances. The family refuses to believe the police claim of suicide.
Dulal, a father of three, and Trilochon may have had little in common, but there was one crucial link that joined them: both had joined the BJP just before the panchayat polls in their Balarampur block, in which the party would go on to win seven gram panchayat sansads, 17 of 20 panchayat seats and two zilla parishads.
It was during the Ram Navmi celebrations in March, organised on a big scale by the Bajrang Dal for the first time in Purulia, that Trilochon first got involved with the BJP. Family members, who describe him as a “rebel”, say Trilochon had been a Congress supporter during the CPM regime, but after the Trinamool Congress came to power, had started focusing on his studies as well as opened a catering business, which was doing well.
In the wake of the Bajrang Dal’s huge Ram Navmi rallies, many local youths including Trilochon had got swept into the BJP fold here. A large number of them later joined the party just a month before the panchayat polls. Trilochon was made the pramukh of a ‘Booth Suraksha (booth protection) committee’.
While Balarampur had seen sporadic violence between TMC and BJP, Bajrang Dal workers during the panchayat polls, there was no major incident in Supurdi. The BJP had claimed to have thwarted attempts to storm polling booths in some areas.
On May 30, Trilochon’s body was found along with a message, written on his T-shirt as well as on a paper attached to it, saying he was killed for daring to join the BJP. He had gone missing the evening before.
Police have confirmed Trilochon was murdered, but attribute it to personal enmity. Joy Biswas, who has since been shifted out as Purulia Superintendent of Police, refused to elaborate on this, while his replacement, Akash Magharia, declined comment.
Trilochon’s father Hariram Mahato said police were trying to hush up the matter. “I know he had no enmity with anyone. He had been threatened by TMC workers. After the BJP’s win, there was a victory celebration in the village. Trilochon had played a major role in organising it. Some people didn’t like that,” he said.
Trilochon’s brother Shibnath claimed he had received a call from Trilochon around 8.15 pm on the day he went missing to say he was being abducted.
A heartbroken Hariram, 58, said the family had vested all its hopes in Trilochon, the youngest of his four sons. “I work at a shop in Balarampur bazar. Two of my sons left their studies to work outside the state. We spent all we earned on him. We hoped at least Trilochon would study and become someone some day.”
The evening he went missing, the family said, Trilochon had gone to Balarampur town, about 8 km away, on his bicycle to photocopy some papers for a coming examination. Around 8 pm, Trilochon reportedly called up brother Shibnath to say some people were forcibly dragging him to a jungle nearby.
At Dava village, Dulal’s 29-year-old wife Monika sits in a state of shock holding their three children, Aditya (11), Pooja (9) and Adarsh (7). Like Trilochon, Dulal had drifted to the BJP after participating in the March Ram Navmi rallies, and turned up dead a day after he went missing. He was found hanging from a high-tension wire, about a kilometre his home, on June 2.
“A team of five doctors did the postmortem at Purulia Sadar hospital. It is clearly written due to asphyxia, due to hanging, antemortem and suicidal in nature,” said SP Magharia.
Dulal’s family members and villagers say he could not have killed himself, pointing to the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death. Said Monika, “Would a person leave his motorbike a kilometre away, with the keys in it, and walk all the way to hang himself? Police are lying… Why would he commit suicide? He had no problems at home, no financial crisis.”
She also claimed threats from the TMC. “Just a day before he was abducted and killed, local TMC workers had threatened him.”
According to the family members, on June 1, the day Dulal went missing, he had participated in the BJP’s state-wide ‘Thana Gherao’ programme to protest against Trilochon’s killing. In the evening, he left with food for his father, who was at the family shop of paddy rice cutter machine about a kilometre away. The family, that is relatively well-off, also owns a ration shop.
“He was very active in politics and that is why he was targeted. Police took away seven TMC men from the village for interrogation, but no one has been arrested,” said Dinabandhu Kumar, a nephew of Dulal.
Denying TMC involvement in the deaths, general secretary Partha Chatterjee said on Sunday, “The postmortem report (of Dulal) has made it clear it is a case of suicide. The BJP is trying to create trouble by alleging murder.”
BJP state secretary Sayantan Basu said, “We want the two cases to be handed over to the CBI or we will move court.”