PURULIA: "Whenever they see a bearded man, they shout 'Jai Shree Ram to tease us," complained
50-year-old Ansar Gazi of Bhursa village of Arsha block in Purulia district of West Bengal.
A predominantly Muslim village of 150 households, the murder of 55-year-old Bhursa native Sheikh Shajahan allegedly by Bajrang Dal cadres on April 25 sparked off communal violence in Raniganj, Asansol and Kankinara claiming four lives.
Now, after the twin deaths of BJP workers in Balarampur, Bhursa residents are terrorised and lament the loss of generations of Hindu-Muslim camaraderie due to the murder.
"Our village has a long history of Hindu-Muslim camaraderie where pujas at the local Shiva temple built by our Muslim king around 250 years ago are incomplete without the flowers and clothes sent from Muslim homes till this day. But Bajrang Dal cadres from Purulia town came and wanted to take Hanuman Jayanti procession through the Muslim village to the temple which local youth protested and did not let them enter the village. That irked them and Shahjahan became a victim of their anger," Gazi added.
Narrating the events leading to the murder, Sheikh Shahjahan's eldest son Sheikh Imran (30) said: "Father had gone to the fields to fetch a cow at around 1 pm on April 25. I shouted and told him not to
go as Bajrang Dal men were there but he was hard of hearing. I saw him die before my own eyes."
Not only have no one been arrested in the murder case, Imran has not even received his father's death certificate. The victim is survived by four children and wife Hanufa Bibi (45) but earning hands are
While Sheikh Shahjahan was a jaggery candy maker (called 'Badaam Pataali' in Bengali), Imran and his 25-year-old brother Sheikh Arman are construction labourers and have to look after the education
of brothers Sheikh Shahbaz (Class X student) and Sheikh Arbaz (Class VI student) along with sister Shabana Khatun (Class IX student).
"He was the head of the family and we are living a difficult life after his death," said Hanufa Bibi.
After the death, many have given up the business of selling cows for fear of being lynched even though beef consumption is not banned in West Bengal. "The incidents of lynchings in neighbouring Jharkhand and growth of BJP and Bajrang Dal in the district has forced many people to give up their profession of
trading cows," said former cow-trader and present small farmer Asad Ali.
However, newly-elected Gram Panchayat head Sheikh Ashar said that all the 950 voters of the village voted for him en masse as a fitting reply to the murder of Shahjahan allegedly by Bajrang Dal. BJP
has won in neighbouring Hindu-dominated villages.
Nevertheless, Bhursa residents say they are ready to end the animosity even if it requires them to conduct Hanuman Jayanti next year.
"Though Hanuman Jayanti was never celebrated in this region before, we are ready to hold Hanuman Jayanti procession next year if that brings back the peace and camaraderie between the two communities," said pious Muslim Ansar Gazi while observing Roza (fast).