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The last few days, I've received multiples messages asking me to confirm if the viral videos about communal clashes in Hooghly's Telinipara (#WestBengal) were true. Watch/read my ground report here: @TheQuint…
We visited Telinipara on 13 May, a day after the second round of violence, which started on 10 May. At the outset, I'd like to clarify that there were areas that we were stopped from going. As of now the situation in the area is under control, though tense.
This is what we saw in chronological order. Firstly, right as we entered the area, BJP MPs Locket Chatterjee and Arjun Singh were meeting a crowd of locals in the area. They are in the middle of all these people here 👇
The locals (evidently Hindu, now that we heard them) were saying that the Muslims beat them up while the police watched. Even children weren't spared. They also complained that the police were picking up Hindu men and boys at random to prove a point.
We managed to speak to some of them after the netas left and the anger against the police was palpable. Women complained that pregnant Hindu women had been lathicharged and that their men and sons were being picked up without reason for inciting violence.
One man said that the Muslims started the violence as 5 of them had tested #COVID19 positive and they didn't want to isolate. Another woman said: "They have a problem because they have corona and we don't have corona. If they are getting corona, what can we do?".
There was a lot of general talk on how Hindus are staying at home but Muslims are roaming about everywhere. Also a lot of rush as the video shows. I couldn't get the names of people I spoke to. But they asked us to come see their locality where the destruction happened.
We took down the names of the locality so that we could go there later. Unfortunately, didn't get the chance as when we went to the said locality later in the day, we were asked by the police to leave as we were causing people to come out of their homes.
Then we were accompanied by some people to the place where the clashes actually took place. The road leading up to both the Hindu & Muslim colonies- right next to each other- was littered with glass shards and brick pieces.
We went inwards from here down narrow, winding lanes made of thatched as well as pucca houses to what was the Muslim area. The roofs of the 1 and a half room houses in this cluster were burnt. The rooms and all its belongings also burnt to a crisp.
This is Jahangir Ansari. The cupboard behind him had 1 lakh rupees and jewellery for his sister's wedding which got postponed because of the lockdown. All burnt. He couldn't recover the jewellery. Jahangir says since the #TablighiJamaat Muslims in the area face constant taunts.
The Hindu shops are asked not to deal with the Muslims and the Hindus are asked not to go to the Muslim shops, Jahangir tells me. They say "corona aa gaya" everytime a Muslim passes by. Nazneen, who lives next door, says even the imam & muezzin are not spared.
The woman is 60yo Kamrunnisa. Her children fled when the clashes started. She and her husband (70) couldn't. A debri fell on his leg and he can't walk now. She doesn't have money or food. Doesn't know how she'll break her roza.
We were speaking to all these people as the police were patrolling just some distance away. By the time we were done with interviews, they'd come to the spot. When we wanted to go to the Hindu area after that, we were asked to for reasons mentioned earlier in the thread.
Now for what the cops are saying: Sources say that some Muslims were tested COVID positive last week. This is in the context of an already stigmatised atmosphere where taunts on Muslims is an everyday affair. Then, some elements created a barricade around the common washroom...
...saying that Muslims won't be allowed. This triggered the clashes. As the police tried to intervene, some of them were injured too. There were also barricades created around the Muslim area by Hindu locals which further aggravated the situation.
The second round of attacks on 12 May seems to "planned" say the cops, as they had already contained the situation by 11 May (Monday). On record, cops admit the clashes were communal. Till now, a total of 120+ people have been arrested. Internet in the area is erratic.
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