Keshpur, July 19: Kohinoora Bewa will attend Mamata Banerjee’s July 21 rally, but without a heavy heart for the first time in 17 years.
Kohinoora is the widow of Abdul Khalek Ali, who died with 12 others when police burst tear gas shells and fired on Youth Congress supporters on July 21, 1993, during a march-to-Writers’ programme.
Since then, she and her son Shajahan, now 28, has never missed Mamata’s “martyrs’ day” rally on July 21 every year.
“We attended the rallies with tears in our eyes and heaviness in our hearts,” Kohinoora said at her home in Keshpur, West Midnapore.
“But this time it is different. We have buried our sorrows and are joyous because Mamata has become chief minister,” the 50-year-old added.
Last December, Mamata, then minister for railways, had arranged a signalman’s job for Shajahan and given the family a much-needed source of regular income.
“We were having a difficult time farming our small, 18-cottah plot,” Kohinoora said.
She said the events of July 21, 1993, still haunt her.
“We had heard that there was trouble in Calcutta,” she said. She “panicked” when her husband did not return even two days after the incident. “I contacted local Youth Congress workers who had gone to Calcutta with my husband and they began to search for him,” Kohinoora said.
“My husband was found lying on a railway station platform with a festering wound in his stomach.”
Khalek was admitted to the Midnapore district hospital from where he was referred to Calcutta’s SSKM Hospital.
“Doctors said he was hit by a tear gas shell in his stomach and there were other injuries from police batons,” Kohinoora said.
Khalek died two days later.
“I went to Mamata and broke down in front of her. I asked what would happen to my children, and she promised me help,” Kohinoora said.
She said Mamata had given her Rs 1.10 lakh, with which she married off her two daughters, and a job for her son.
Khalek’s widow said she felt her prayers were answered when Mamata became the chief minister. “It appears that my husband did not die for nothing,” she said.
After years of grief, Kohinoora said she was “looking forward” to the July 21 rally. “We now want to shed tears of joy … I want to celebrate July 21 for the first time in 17 years.”
Shajahan said Mamata had not forgotten that he is the son of a “martyr”. “It was because of her that I got a job, which came as a blessing to our family.”
However, Shajahan, whose second son was born yesterday, said he was disappointed. “I wanted a daughter and had thought of naming her Mamata. But I couldn’t. After all, I can’t control my fate,” he said.