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Coercion, minor marriage slur on CPM

Ruia (North 24-Parganas), Sept. 22: The high-handedness of CPM local committees came into the focus again with the father of a young man lodging a complaint against the forcible marriage of a minor girl to his son after a shalishi meeting called by party supporters.

Kamal Hossain, 21, a resident of Azamtala here, about 40 km from Calcutta, was forced into a nikaah with 13-year-old Nasima by those present at the conciliation meeting, including Tapan Das, the pradhan of the CPM-led Patulia panchayat, after being accused to raping her. Nasima was also against the marriage.

'The charges against my son are false and the villagers know it,' said Mohammad Jalaluddin Sheikh.

According to residents of Azamtala, Kamal was popular and often objected to illegal activities like gambling, especially during festivals. 'This incurred the wrath of some residents, who are CPM activists. They waited for an opportunity to settle scores,' said Sadiq Mondal, Kamal's neighbour. He, too is a CPM activist.

Jalaluddin, a contractor, refused to accept the marriage held on July 29 and tried to lodge a complaint with the police. He was turned away with the suggestion that he settle the issue with those who held the shalishi meeting.

Jalaluddin could finally register a complaint on Sunday, after apparently a senior CPM leader of the district intervened.

Amitava Bose, the CPM North 24-Parganas secretary, asked the officer-in-charge to record the FIR against five persons after a section of party workers contacted him, CPM insiders said.

When contacted, Bose said he was aware of the incident and the matter had been placed before the 'appropriate party forum'. But the sources said Benoy Konar, the CPM state committee member overseeing the district, has sought a report from the district committee.

On July 29, a group of villagers asked Kamal to meet one of his neighbours around 4 pm. 'When my son went to the house, he was hauled up by them on charges of raping Nasima, who was present there. Around 5.30 pm, several persons dragged Kamal out of that house and started abusing him. When Kamal denied the charge, no one would listen,' said Jalaluddin.

Some of the villagers said the people then called in Das, who convened the shalishi meeting. It was decided Kamal would have to marry Nasima.

'The pradhan and others also threatened that if Kamal refused to marry Nasima, they would lodge a rape complaint,' said Kamal's mother, Manowara Bibi.

Without giving Kamal's family any time, the group called in a kazi to solemnise the nikaah. 'We kept quiet because we feared for our son's life,' said Manowara.

Das has no regrets. 'We took the right decision. We don't need to explain why we took it,' he said.

Manowara said Nasima used to run away to her house, located nearby, every day and was brought back by those people every evening. Last Saturday, Nasima, before leaving, scribbled a letter, saying she did not want this marriage.

At this, Kamal's family protested against the marriage. It invited the wrath of some villagers, who raided their house and beat up the family members.

Kamal's mother sustained injuries in the head and fractured her right arm. Jalauddin and his younger son were also injured.

With his back to the wall, Jalaluddin again went to the police station. This time, the report was accepted.

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