The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Screaming men with bombs’

Kainat Zareen left Albany Hall Public School in tears last Wednesday afternoon. The Class V student returned on Monday, all smiles, but with the fear of walking through riot-ravaged Ripon Street still lurking in her eyes.

After Kainat left her school on Gorachand Road, in Beniapukur, on November 21, she was caught in the middle of mob fury. The resident of Alimuddin Street got away unhurt but not unscathed. She was too shaken to attend school till Monday morning.

Kainat, whose photograph in The Telegraph had captured her terror and despair on Wednesday, spoke on Monday about the most frightening hour of her life...

“Six days have passed, but I can still feel the smell of the teargas. When I close my eyes, I can see those men with bottle bombs and stones chasing Wakar (her younger brother) and me. When I am alone in my room at night, I can feel the presence of those angry men with lathis and bombs.

“I had never seen such mob violence before. Many of the men were carrying placards. I could only read the word ‘Taslima’ written on them.

“They were shouting “Go back! Go back!” I didn’t know why. I was so confused that I felt they were telling Wakar and me to go back.

“The way they were screaming made me very nervous. I was so confused and scared. The policemen were bursting teargas shells one after another. My eyes were burning.

“Wakar and I started crying. I couldn’t breathe properly. I didn’t know what to do or which way to go. I was about to collapse. Luckily, some policemen gave us some water to splash on our face and eyes.”

For Kainat, the first hint of trouble on Wednesday came at 11.45am, when she was in the middle of sports practice.

“We were suddenly told there was a trouble in the locality. Our teachers told us we would be allowed to go home early, provided a guardian came to fetch us.

“As Wakar and I study in the same school, we walk back home together every day. When we were told we would not be allowed to leave without a guardian, we decided to go to our aunt’s house, which is hardly a minute away from school. We would call up our parents from there and ask them to come and take us home.

“The school security staff arranged an escort for us till our aunt’s house. But just as we reached there, Wakar changed his mind and insisted on going back home. I said okay and started walking back home with him. We are familiar with all lanes and bylanes leading to Alimuddin Street and so we were confident of dodging the trouble-makers and reaching home safely.

“As we entered a lane, we saw a lot of men — all looking very angry — running towards us with bottle bombs and bricks. We immediately turned around, ran into another lane and somehow managed to reach the main road (Ripon Street-AJC Bose Road crossing). But there, the situation was worse. There was a battle going on.

“Finally, two policemen who had come to help us escorted Wakar and me back home.

“I was too scared to come to school last week. I hope nothing like this happens in Calcutta again.”

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