Monday, 10 March 2014

Will acquittal of Khonra Badshah deepen communal hostility in South 24 Paraganas district?


Contrary to expectations of people and especially families of victims, Noor Islam Fakir alias Khonra (lame) Badshah, liable for the death of almost 200 persons in the infamous hooch tragedy that rocked the whole of Bengal in 2011, has been released. Apart from him, seven other persons including his wife Shakila Bibi have also been acquitted. Even if the couple will have to be behind the bars for the time being due to their involvement in two other hooch tragedy-related death cases, it is believed that this exoneration will relieve the hooch kingpin ultimately. 
While on one hand, this acquittal evidences his sway in the environs even after languishing in jails for more than two years, on the other hand, the insincerity of police and administration has come to the light also. According to locals, had police, defying political pressure, been sincere to convict Badshah, the result would have been different. What is more apprehended, his final release will change the politics-crime world nexus in the district of South 24 Paraganas overnight and tranquility will be replaced by violent clashes only.
It is not hard to recall the dreaded incident that rocked the whole of Bengal and also the nation almost three years ago. On December 14, 2011, almost 200 persons (although police’s record state the death toll as 172) died after drinking hooch, purportedly manufactured by Badshah in the areas of Sangrampur, Mograhat and Mandirbazar areas within the district of South 24 Parganas. The event not only shocked people at large but enraged mob, as a result, was witnessed to smash a number of shops of liquor around. Public life, virtually, came to a standstill almost for a few days, after that. The government was prompt enough to set up an official probe and three cases, in this regard, were filed against Khonra Badshah and his accomplices. The case of Mandirbazar was being put on trial by the Diamond Harbour Additional District and Sessions’ Judge’s Court.
What has gone wrong? This single question is haunting victims’ kin at the moment and if sources are to be believed, the insincerity of police and administration, under political pressure, happened to be the best weapon for the hooch kingpin. This hunch gets firm with the chastisement by the Hon’ble Judge at the Diamond Harbour Additional District and Sessions’ Judge’s Court. Apart from picking the lackadaisical attitude of police, the inability of police to submit the forensic report of viscera was also censured severely. The public prosecutor was seen to remain silent altogether.
Days following the arrest of Badshah witnessed high pitch dramas only as no less than 23 witnesses to the incident turned hostile one by one and none other than the public prosecutor declared them hostile as their statements in court contradicted their earlier avowals during the interrogation done by police. Insiders claim that it was affright, strengthened by the apathy of police and administration, that propelled witnesses to become hostile. Others claim that high compensations refrained victims’ families to proceed any longer. But this is not the truth since the news of acquittal was found to imperil hundreds of families in the neighborhood.
This weird success has demoralized and also frightened plaintiffs in the remaining two cases. Lawyers in Calcutta High Court consider that there are ample chances that these two cases will become insignificant in due course.  A part of administration also considers, release of Badshah will worsen law and order in the whole of South 24 Paraganas district, known more these days for burgeoning communal clashes.



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