The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Terror victims still wait for help

Calcutta, Jan. 22: Exactly a year ago, there were six rifles, two revolvers and eight lathis.

Today, there were four AK-47s, two revolvers and five lathis. But the sleepy eyes — red from a night’s duty — remained. So did the yearning for a cup of morning tea as they left in groups of three to go to a small Russell Street shop.

Calcutta police personnel called upon to guard the American Center, where five of their colleagues died as they failed to prevent a terrorist attack, waited for their chief Sujoy Chakraborty to turn up (as rumours suggested) in the best way they could on another cold January 22 morning.

The chief did not turn up but the duty went on. So did the changeover, when the terrorists had struck last year, but with a little more alert look about it.

Far away from Calcutta, in the middle of rural Howrah, a 10-member family waited for some form of government help to turn up.

One of its only two earning members died in that attack last year. That help — like the city police chief’s absence at the American Center — has not arrived.

Farther away from Calcutta, in Itahar in North Dinajpur, it is a repeat of the same story as Calcutta police seem to have forgotten all the five families — save one — which gave up one life each in the city’s first brush with terror a year ago.

In Howrah, Suresh Hembram’s wife, Saraswati, saw a Calcutta police vehicle the last time this day last year; it escorted her husband’s body till the point where the city police jurisdiction ended. In between, one day last July, she was called to the Lalbazar headquarters to have her weight and height taken.

That was her last brush with the department where her husband worked, she said today, clutching her two-year-old son in her arms.

Life has been the same for Ujjwal Burman’s family in Itahar. They, however, have got one concession; Burman’s brother — also in Calcutta police at that time — has been shifted to the state cadre in North Dinajpur so that he can stay near home.

Hembram’s friends and neighbours, however, have not been as thoughtless. All the 50-odd tribal homes of Munshirhat in Amta, Howrah, held a silent procession to the crematorium where they had erected a martyr’s column last year.

They have also decided to name every village sports meet they organise after Suresh.

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