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On birthday, payesh of pain

Sourav Chowdhury would have turned 23 on Sunday, savoured a steaming bowl of payesh his mother used to cook without fail on his birthday and spent the day with friends.

This year too the gentle aroma of payesh wafted through the kitchen of his Kulberia home in Bamangachhi but didn’t wander beyond the strong smell of incence burning in front of his photograph.

The jovial college-going youth paid with his life last week for raising his voice against hooch dens in the neighbourhood. “I had cooked payesh and fed him with my hands every year. I couldn’t stop myself from cooking…” Teary-eyed mother Mita couldn’t complete her sentence. Father Saroj was nearby... sombre.

The house was teeming with people as neighbours and friends of the second-year college student in the North 24-Parganas village turned up for a programme in his memory. Besides, there were people from Kamduni, where a college girl was gang-raped and murdered last year, and Sutia, where a rape protester had been killed.

Rinku, the sister of Rajib Das who was bludgeoned to death in Barasat while trying to save her from a group of intoxicated harassers, was there too.

When Sourav’s mutilated body was found on the morning of July 5 beside railway tracks near Barasat, these people have found a common cord.

The villagers took out a rally on Sunday at Kulberia, marching on the roads around Sourav’s house with placards and banners condemning the brutal murder. Sourav’s father and elder brother Sandip were marched too.

“Sourav used to spend his birthday evenings with us. In the morning, we used to visit his home and kakima (aunty Nita) used to feed us payesh. It is difficult to believe that Sourav is not among us,” said Sekhar Majumdar, a friend.

“He was killed because he supported the resistance against hooch dens and the hooliganism of Shyamal Karmakar. We will not forget him and carry forward his mission,” said Sourin Kar.

A forum, Amra Akranto (We are attacked), was formed by Kulberia, Kamduni and Sutia residents on Sunday with a pledge to mobilise agitation at any place in the state where the government fails to protect people’s lives.

“We will protest whenever a protester is murdered,” said Mousumi Kayal, the face of the protest in Kamduni.