CHOPRA: Families of the three Muslim youth who were lynched on suspicion of cattle theft say they were urgently summoned over the phone on the night they were lynched in Durgapur village near here in Muslim-majority Uttar Dinajpur district of West Bengal.
A few days before Eid, three Muslim youth were lynched over suspicion of cow theft in cow smuggling hub Chopra on Thursday night. Three persons linked with the lynching incident have been arrested.
An 80-metre-long tunnel under the Indo-Bangla international border was found near Chopra in April this year. It was suspected that the tunnel might have been used to smuggle cattle across the border.
Denying any links with cow smugglers, the families say that the victims hurriedly rushed in bicycles and a motorbike after being summoned over the phone. “My son left his meal unfinished around 8 pm on Thursday night on a bicycle after receiving a phone call. We received news of his death the next day,” said 45-year-old Khairuddin, father of Nosirul Haq, a migrant construction worker who had returned home from Delhi two months ago for Eid. Nosirul is survived by his four-year-old child and his pregnant wife, Marjina Khatun at his home in Kuthipara village, some 10 km from the Bangladesh border.
All the families say the victims received the phone calls between 7.30 and 8 pm. “We had Milad festivities at our home. My brother received a phone call around 7.30 pm and left. We couldn’t sleep all night as we were worried about him. We received pictures of his dead body the next day on WhatsApp,” said Faizul Ali, brother of victim Md Nasiruddin, a resident of Dhulogach village in the region. Nasiruddin is survived by his wife Anisa Begum and two infants. On the other hand, relatives of the deceased say the victims were tortured to death.
“My son’s body was found stripped and his private parts were smashed. I have lost the major bread earner of my family,” said a teary-eyed 60-year-old Md Ashin Ali. Fathers of the three victims have filed general diaries with Chopra Police Station. Ashin Ali confirmed that his son knew the other two victims in person. “They all worked together as construction laborers,” he said.
Victim Md Samiruddin’s brother-in-law Abdul Haq also said that there were signs of torture on the body of the lynched youth. “There were sharp cut marks on his throat, arms and stomach,” he said.
Samiruddin’s kin said he had saved enough money to buy an auto and ply on the roads of nearby major town Islampur. “Would Samiruddin go to steal cows on a motorbike on Thursday night?” Abdul added.
“We are landless farm laborers and work as construction workers. Why would we steal in the holy month of Ramzan?” added Ashin Ali. Faizul’s father Khairuddin said his son was doing well in Delhi and did not need to steal cows for a living.
However, police say the victims have a record of cow thefts in the area. “The deceased had a past history of cow thefts in the area. Adequate security measures have been taken and there is no tension in the area,” said Uttar Dinajpur SP Amitkumar Bharat Rathod.
The region around Chopra has a history of communal tension during festivals. It witnessed a communal clash on this day (Rath Yatra) in 2016 over the burning of a rath (chariot). According to some locals, the numbers of cow thefts spike significantly before Eid.