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West Bengal elections: His murder started a trend in Bengal; 3 years on, family in fear

Trilochan’s killing started a new trend of murder and hanging in Bengal’s violent politics. At least six BJP leaders and workers have been killed in similar fashion since.

Written by Ravik Bhattacharya , Amitava Chakraborty | Supurdi (purulia) |
Updated: March 26, 2021 7:09:38 am
Trilochan’s father Hariram washing his bust. The inscription says ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. (Express photo by Partha Paul)

Bishnupada Mahato (26) and his elder brother Bibekananda (29), residents of Supurdi village in Purulia district, have had at least four marriage proposals rejected. The reason: Almost three years ago, on May 30, 2018, their younger brother Trilochan Mahato was found hanging near their home, with a message scrawled on his shirt: “This is for BJP politics from the age of 18.”

This was after the violence-hit 2018 panchayat elections, in which the Opposition accused the Trinamool government of rampant rigging and booth capturing. Trilochan was then a second-year student in Balarampur College, and a BJP worker.

Supurdi, which has some 400 houses, is about 8 km from Purulia’s Balarampur town. Voting for the Balarampur seat will take place in the first phase on March 27.

Says Bishnupada, a daily-wage painter, “My brother was appearing for his final exams. He called me to say he had been kidnapped and was being taken inside a jungle, and that he could be killed. We rushed to the jungle. Police joined the search. At 6 am (the next day), police found Trilochan hanging.”

Trilochan’s killing started a new trend of murder and hanging in Bengal’s violent politics. At least six BJP leaders and workers have been killed in similar fashion since. On Wednesday, Amit Sarkar Bharatiya, the BJP town mandal president of Dinhata in Cooch Behar district, was found hanging near the local party office.

Balarampur Assembly constituency, of which Supurdi is part, was won by the Trinamool’s Shantiram Mahato in 2011 and 2016. The party also won the Purulia Lok Sabha seat, of which Balarampur is a part, in 2014. In the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, however, the BJP’s Jyotirmay Singh Mahato defeated sitting Trinamool MP Mriganko Mahato by over 2 lakh votes. Shantiram is the Trinamool’s Balarampur candidate again now.

About the rejected marriage proposals, Trilochan’s mother Panna Mahato says, “We went and saw the girls, and there was initial agreement. But then the girls’ families made inquiries, and rejected the proposals. They were apprehensive of getting their daughters married into our family… Will my sons never get married?”

Following the 2018 incident, police had set up a camp at the primary school in Supurdi. The family received a cheque of Rs 5 lakh, and Rs 25,000 separately from the BJP. A bust of Trilochan was put up in front of a new home —painted saffron — that the Mahatos built using the money.

The family’s original two-room kachcha house stands adjacent to the new one. Showing Trilochan’s room, Bishnupada says, “We have turned it into a shed for the cows.”

The family says it continues to live in fear. Cleaning Trilochan’s bust — something he does unfailingly every day — his father Hariram Mahato, 62, says: “Following my son’s murder, the CID took up the case. Four people were arrested, but all are out on bail. My eldest son Bibekananda wanted to contest the Assembly election from Balarampur. He wrote letters to (West Bengal BJP president) Dilip Ghosh, (Home Minister) Amit Shah, and the BJP district president. The party decided otherwise, but since then many Trinamool supporters hang around our house at night.”

The BJP has nominated Baneswar Mahato for the Balarampur seat.

The brothers and a few of their neighbours now sleep on a bamboo machan outside the house. Sitting on the makeshift platform, they watch videos such as ‘The Martyrs of BJP’ on YouTube.

Says Bishnupada, “When central forces visited the village, we told them we feel unsafe. We also told them that officers at Balarampur police station have on many occasions refused to lodge our complaints.”

A senior officer from Balarampur police station, however, says: “There hasn’t been much violence in Supudi in the last few years. We already have a camp in the village. I have myself gone many times on rounds. We send a police vehicle to patrol every day.”

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