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Kin in prayer, locals up in arms

Seventy two hours after her tragic death, Shabana Parveen’s one-room home on Howrah’s Belilious Road had an ‘official’ visitor. A health officer of the Howrah Municipal Corporation dropped by to find out how the six-month-old had contracted diarrhoea. The visit coincided with Tijit, a ritual after the death of a person, being performed for Shabana.

Neighbours staged a demonstration for the official, protesting the lack of any civic amenities in the area. “We told him about our plight,” said Sarfraz, one of the agitators. He claimed the area had no proper drainage system, drinking water or any other health facilities.

“Every year, there is an outbreak of gastro-enteritis. The sewerline and water supply line often get linked, posing a health hazard,” said Lala Salauddin, Howrah district Youth Congress general secretary.

Inside the home of Ashraf Khan, Shabana’s father, passages from the Quran were being read and fakirs prayed for the peace of Shabana’s soul.

The administration and the ruling CPM went unrepresented, but Swapan Banerjee, brother of Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, and Trinamul local MLA Ambica Banerjee consoled Ashraf.

Ashraf himself was too numb with shock to drag himself to work. Thursday was the third day of his absence from duty. “How can I pull my cycle-van' I don’t have the strength to get back to work,” he cried. “Even my only source of income has become irrelevant now,” he said.

Shabana’s death has sent shockwaves among her neighbours. “We cannot imagine she is gone. She was such a bundle of joy to her family,” said Naseem, a neighbour who also attended Shabana’s Tijit ritual.

Later in the day, Shabana’s mother Naseema developed diarrhoea, just like her daughter, and was rushed to Howrah State General Hospital.

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