Manirul’s house where the alleged attack took place. Picture by Indrajit Roy
Labhpur (Birbhum), June 29: Manirul Islam, who later became Trinamul MLA, had personally struck what looks like one of the first blows on a night of beatings that took three lives, according to an account by a survivor who is also the brother of the victims.
At a kangaroo court that convened in the politician’s house in Birbhum to settle a sand business dispute, a furious Manirul sprang to his feet, stomped out of the courtyard through one of the gates, bolted it from outside, came in through the other gate and bolted it from inside, Jamal Sheikh, 29, told The Telegraph over the phone from a hiding place.
“Before we had realised what was happening, Manirul picked up a shovel and swung it at my brother Sanwar, making a gash in his head,” said Jamal, recounting the events on the night of June 3, 2010, and levelling a direct charge about the personal involvement of the politician.
As Jamal didn’t want to reveal his address, the conversation had to be conducted over the phone. This newspaper had reported on Friday how Jamal’s 80-year-old mother Zarina Biwi and his four surviving brothers — Mazal, Sanwar, Anarul and Saifuddin — have been moving from one place to another these four years.
Six Sheikh brothers and two nephews had gone to Manirul’s home. Koton Sheikh, Turuk Sheikh and Dhanu Sheikh were killed. Jamal was given up for dead while Sanwar and two nephews escaped. Manirul’s supporters apparently mistook Saifuddin to be one of them in the dimly-lit courtyard and he managed to slip out later.
Since then, Manirul has secured bail because police did not file a chargesheet on time. He has also contested the Assembly elections on a Trinamul ticket, become an MLA and boasted in public how he had “trampled three to death”. A petition moved by the brothers who survived the night is pending in the high court.
In a politically polarised state like Bengal, allegations against politicians are not unusual. But rarely before have such graphic details been listed by a person who says the events unfolded in front of his own eyes.
Jamal explained how Manirul’s associates, prodded by their boss, checked whether he was dead or alive.
A man poured something powdery — Jamal thinks it was gunpowder — on his right leg, struck a match and lit it.
“I kept my eyes shut, gritted my teeth and lay without moving or letting out a single groan of pain. I bore the torture silently and saved my life,” Jamal said. “The pain was unbearable but I neither screamed nor moved. Soon, the man put the fire out and declared I was dead.”
Jamal added: “I heard Manirul call up someone on a cellphone and say, ‘Charjon-i poreh giyechhe; char bhai kei mere phelechhi (All four are down; we have killed all four brothers)’.”
Asked by this newspaper about the specific charges levelled by Jamal, Manirul, the MLA, said tonight: “I have nothing to say in this matter. They (the family members of the three murdered brothers) may say a lot of things. A disinformation campaign is going on against me.”
According to Jamal, the family’s troubles began when they refused to follow Manirul into Trinamul from the Forward Bloc. They were forced out of the village for a while before Manirul brought them back, Zarina had said.
Manirul, then a panchayat upapradhan, was eyeing the brothers’ sand-lifting business and summoned them to a salishi sabha (kangaroo court) at his home on June 3, 2010, Jamal said.
“Our business was running well. The problems began only after Manirul and some of his men tried to grab it,” he said.
Since there was regular trouble at the sand-lifting site, the family was keen to settle the dispute.
“Six of us brothers and two of our nephews went to the salishi, held in Manirul’s courtyard,” Jamal said. “The courtyard could be reached from two entrances and it was protected by concrete walls on all sides.”
Several of Manirul’s associates were gathered there. Before the brothers could say a word, Manirul gave his verdict. He said one of his aides would lift the sand.
“We protested. We told Manirul we would not let anybody lift sand from the area covered by our permit,” Jamal recalled.
It was then that Manirul sprang to his feet, bolted the gates and hit Sanwar with the shovel, Jamal said.
When the brothers came out of their shock and asked Manirul why he had hit Sanwar at a meeting called to find a solution, Manirul apparently shouted: “Kisher phaishala? Maar sab kotake (What solution? Attack them all).”
Jamal said Manirul and his men used everything they could lay their hands on to assault the eight men from Jamal’s family. With the doors bolted, there was no escape but Sanwar and the two nephews managed to scale the wall in the melee and run away.
“They rained blows on those of us who couldn’t escape. I saw Koton and Turuk slump to the ground while Dhanu was still trying to put up some resistance,” Jamal said. “Then I passed out.”
When he came to, he could see his three brothers’ blood-splattered bodies lying beside him. It took him a while to realise they were no longer in Manirul’s courtyard but in an open field, around 50 metres from his home.
Jamal remembers Manirul telling his associates to get an ambulance and take the bodies to Bolpur subdivisional hospital. He doesn’t recall much about the journey: cramped in the backseat with his brothers’ bodies, he had passed out again.
When Jamal regained his senses, he heard someone say: “He’s alive; take him to Burdwan.”
He realised that a doctor and a few nurses were lifting him into an ambulance. “I was in hospital for more than three months,” Jamal said.
Too afraid to return home to Buniadanga in Birbhum’s Labhpur block, Jamal now lives somewhere in Murshidabad. The school dropout, who had his arms and legs broken with iron rods, can no longer work for a living.
“I thank God I’m alive but I have one question for Him: how can someone like Manirul roam around freely?” Jamal said.