When she woke up on Saturday, Rahila Bibi, 23, of Jorpatki village had no inkling of what could happen in a few hours — she was simply excited about her Gangtok trip, starting Sunday, with her husband Maniruzzaman Mia, 28, and their one-and-a-half-month-old daughter.
However, on Sunday, a devastated Rahila bade her final farewell to her young husband, one of the four men who fell to the CISF bullets at Jorpatki village in Sitalkuchi of Cooch Behar district on Saturday. Their daughter slept on in the lap of a relative, oblivious to the fact that she lost her father.
The other three men who lost their lives are Nur Alam Mia, 20, Samiul Mia, 21, and Hamidul Mia, 31.
“He had reached home from Gangtok (Maniruzzaman worked as a construction site labourer there) on Friday (a day ahead of the fourth phase of polls)…we had plans that today (Sunday), we would leave for his workplace and would spent some days there in the hills. Yesterday (Saturday), both of us went to vote and then suddenly…gunshots were fired and my life took a different turn,” said a wailing Rahila.
Mamata Bibi, Maniruzzaman’s mother, was also inconsolable.
Sitting in front of their house, she went on repeating why the CISF personnel did not charge at the voters with batons if there had been any problem at the booth.
“They could have even shot them in the leg…. Our sons would have been injured but we would not have lost them like this,” Maniruzzaman’s mother said.
“We want justice as it is evident that the bullets had been fired to kill them,” she added.
On Sunday morning, Jorpatki, an otherwise quiet, nondescript hamlet in Cooch Behar that hit the headlines after the central forces posted in a local booth opened fire at the residents on Saturday — a rare incident in Bengal during the poll season — wore a bleak look.
As the day rolled on, people started assembling near the houses of the four victims in ones and twos, trying to console the bereaved family members.
Another group of villagers headed for the Mathabhanga sub-divisional hospital to get bodies of the four youths back to the village for their burial.
Late in the morning, the bodies were brought to the village.
Hundreds of people assembled and raised slogans to seek justice for the deaths of the youths.
The bodies were then taken to their respective houses, where traditional rituals were held. Then, the bodies were brought to a graveyard of Hamidul’s family, where the villagers paid the four youths their last respects before the burial.
Absar Ali, Samiul’s father, sat near the graveyard for a long time, lamenting the loss of his son.
Samiul, who used to run an internet café in the locality, was a first-time voter.
“These Bengal elections have taken away my son from me…. I will never vote again in my life. We were standing in queue… both my sons were there. Suddenly, the security men present there started firing. I lost Samiul. We don’t know what made them take such a step,” said the sexagenarian. He said he was still dazed at the events of the last 24 hours. “My life has changed,” he added.
The villagers, who had assembled in large numbers for the burial of the youths, sounded angry. “Why are the Election Commission and the administration silent? Why have the CISF personnel, who indiscriminately fired at our boys, not been taken into custody? We want answers,” said Ershad Hossain, a villager.