The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha’s healing touch, before polls

Deganga (North 24-Parganas), April 6: In life, 20-year-old Jahanara Khatun was left to fight for her honour. No one responded to her cries for help as local youths raided her house to abduct her. She died battling as a bomb hurled by the hoodlums burst on hitting her arm.

In death, the first-year undergraduate student had the chief minister taking the trouble to travel to her decrepit hut in nondescript Fazilpur village to console her family and promise to bring the killers to justice.

The little hut resembled a VIP residence as policemen and jawans of the Rapid Action Force surrounded it. An army of policemen waited in the bamboo grove overlooking the hut.

“The heinous crime is unimaginable. A few hoodlums had forcibly entered the hut and killed the college student for protesting their ugly advances. It is a brutal incident which can’t be thought of in a quiet village like this,” said Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee after speaking to Jahanara’s parents and brothers inside the hut for 15 minutes. Only superintendent of police Basudeb Bag and district magistrate H.K Dwivedi were inside with him.

The chief minister then asked the family members to come up with him on the makeshift dais — hurriedly constructed near the hut — and told the gathering: “Three persons have been rounded up for helping the prime accused in the attack… We will teach them (the culprits) a lesson they will never forget. We will see to it that they never come out of prison. We will have to stand by the victim’s family and I have asked the district police authorities to inquire about their requirements.”

As the evening grew dark, the chief minister and his convoy left. But the light still shone on Jahanara’s little hut — two sodium vapour lights were placed there so that the chief minister’s convoy did not miss the house. The police had to hire a generator to switch on the lamps.

Once news filtered out that Bhattacharjee would visit the bereaved family, the 12-km stretch of dusty and pot-holed village path from Deganga to the hut became the epicentre of activity. Hundreds of labourers toiled through the night to lay bricks on the track that has seen no repair for 15 years as the district CPM leadership raced against time to ensure that the road was motorable.

The sudden flurry of activity, however, failed to impress the residents of Fazilpur and adjoining villages. The chief minister — who arrived around 5.45 this evening — was greeted by placards hung from branches, saying: “Eto din kothay chhilen, bhanga raasta dekhte elen (Where were you all these days, have you come to see the bad road)'” Villagers gave him a frigid reception, standing around silently only to catch a glimpse of the man they often saw on television in the local market.

The refrain was that this had to do something with the forthcoming panchayat elections. The area falls under CPM-controlled panchayat bodies and the population is predominantly Muslim. A section of locals felt that the visit was also aimed at keeping the minority vote bank intact.

On April 3, Jahanara’s next-door neighbour Zakir Hussein, along with other hoodlums, raided her house and tried to abduct her as she had refused his earlier advances. Jahanara died on the spot and her parents and brother were injured as they fought off the attackers.

Recounting last Thursday’s incident, Bag said Zakir wanted to abduct the girl and rape her. Police have arrested three persons, including Zakir and his father Abdul Rauf.

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