Birbhum massacre: Prompt action that eluded Bogtui on carnage day
“Smoke billowing out of a haystack near a burnt house…. Reporting from Bogtui camp No. 2.”
The message was transmitted to walkie-talkie sets at a temporary control room of Bengal police at Bogtui village on Saturday afternoon after some embers of the March 21 carnage had come alive in flames probably in the summer heat.
Two police officers acted promptly and a fire tender reached the village within 20 minutes of the message. Even before the firemen could swing into action, the fire had died down on its own.
The prompt action on Saturday stood in sharp contrast with what the villagers of Bogtui had seen on Monday night when eight people were murdered and several houses continued to burn for hours.
“If such proactive policing had been seen that night (March 21), we could have averted the tragedy. Now we are all paying the price of negligence,” said a villager near the control room.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had made a similar comment when she visited Bogtui on Thursday. “Had police acted on time, such an incident would not have happened,” Mamata had said.
The Bogtui massacre seems to have changed the approach of the police towards this remote hamlet.
Bengal police have set up four police camps at different locations of Bogtui village and a temporary control room to monitor the camps. Multiple CCTV cameras were set up in the village in the aftermath of the incident.
“We are trying our best to give a sense of security to the people,” said a police source.
However, the village stayed mostly deserted even on Saturday, five days after the carnage.
“Those who fled their homes after the attack have not returned. We are also afraid. I am here in my home but panic of attack is everywhere,” said villager Akhtara Bibi.
As part of confidence-building measures, the state government sent ration to 10 families of the victims of the carnage, who have taken refuge at Gopaljol village, around 36km from Bogtui.
“The state government had sent rations for the 10 families of the carnage victims. There were rice, pulses, baby food and other items of daily need,” said a district official.
While the families accepted the ration, they stayed cagey about returning to Bogtui.
“We need time…. We have to repair the burnt houses first and it will take time. We are happy that our chief minister is extending help as she had assured us,” said Mihilal Sheikh, a key witness to the carnage who has lost seven family members.
Ananya Chatterjee Chakraborty, chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR), along with two others members, visited three places to meet children who were victims of the carnage.