In Tragedy, A Lesson In Kindness
Crusader Wouldn’t Have Wanted Revenge, Say Students And Colleagues
Sabarmati Roy TNN
Kolkata: Teachers and students of Mitra Institution, the north Kolkata school where slain social activist Barun Biswas taught, want the assailants to be counseled so that the cycle of terror and violence that plagued Sutia in North 24-Parganas finally ends.
Barun had raised his voice against the mass rapes by a gang that had terrorized Sutia
in 2001-2003. It was his campaign that forced the administration to act and four of the accused were arrested and jailed.
Those who knew Barun believe he would have wanted the killers to be reformed.
“Barun Biswas stood for justice and a world where people — both men and women — could live with dignity. In the crime-prone belt where he carried on his crusade, dignity of life will remain elusive till those who committed the barbaric acts realize they were wrong,” said Santanu Basu, who teaches geography at Mitra Institution. Barun taught Bengali.
“Barun’s murder, a decade after the Sutia rapes, is proof of the lawlessness in the area. It was clearly a revenge killing. But we don’t want harsh punishment to be meted out to the killers. They must be counseled so that understand what they have done and reform their ways,” said Basu.
He was among several teachers, former students and guardians who travelled to Barun’s home near Gobardanga on Friday to pay their condolences to the bereaved family. He is survived by an ailing father and two brothers.
Barun did not marry, fearing it would hamper his social service. “He was a terrific human being, always optimistic and full of life. I still can’t believe he is no more. He was fearless and protested against injustice of any kind, be it trafficking or rape. He refused to get married or get into any relationship that would come in the way of serving the people. Nowadays, it is rare to come across someone as selfless as him,” Basu said.
His students, too, feel that best respect that could be paid to Biswas was to clean up the belt without the use of force. “What is done cannot be reversed. But if he was here today, he would not have wanted the accused to be severely punished. He was always against corporal punishment and believed that explaining politely, yet firmly, worked better in ensuring that a wrong did not get repeated,” said former student Biswajit Dey.
Other ex-students said Biswas was a great teacher, cool tempered and forever ready to offer advice. While he was against corporal punishment, he was firm and made sure mistakes were not repeated.
Very few know that Barun regularly organized blood donation camps and raised funds to distribute blankets among the needy in winter.
Gopal Chandra Mridha, a colleague and relative of Barun, rued the lack of support from the administration. “Had the administration been proactive, Barun would not have met this fate,” he said.
Though political leaders have jumped in to cash in on the sympathy wave, his close associates and family strongly deny he had any kind of political leaning whatsoever.
‘Rape village’ up in arms after crusader’s killing
Cop Outpost Ransacked, Road Blocked
Sanjib Chakraborty TNN
Gaighata (North 24-Parganas): Hundreds of women, armed with brooms and bamboo sticks, attacked police, ransacked a police outpost and blocked a key road for 10 hours on Friday in Sutia, some 80km from Kolkata, to protest against the murder of a schoolteacher who had saved the area from a gang of rapists ten years ago. At least 40,000 people turned up for the funeral of ‘Mastermoshai’ Barun Biswas.
The spontaneous outburst of anger took the administration by surprise. Sutia residents are furious with police for not being able to protect Barun despite several earlier attempts on his life. The RAF was called in to lift the siege but the armourclad men did not know how to take on an army of women.
Locals believe Barun was murdered by the gangsters who were jailed or forced to go underground because of his crusade against the rapes. Their suspicion was deepened by the arrest of Bhim Biswas, a close aide of Susanta Chowdhury, one of the prime accused in the Sutia gang-rape case.
Between 2000 and 2003, Sutia was one of the worst badlands in the country. Gangrapes were a daily affair. Teenagers were raped in front of their mothers, wives in front of husbands and mothers in front of children in a horrific strategy to terrorize the population. If any woman protested, the gang would barge into the house and rape every female in the family. Women could not even step out of Sutia as the gang ran it like its personal fiefdom. Even the police didn’t dare interfere.
Then, Barun, a quiet 26-year-old schoolteacher, rose in protest and led a campaign that ended the reign of terror. Barun’s fightback is the stuff thatBollywood blockbusters are made of, but the blood, guts and bullets and bombs were all too real.
He was shot dead by three men on a bike as soon as he stepped out of Gobordanga railway station on Wednesday evening. The gang shot him in the back, as a hundred people watched in horror. Biswas turned around to face his killers and took the second bullet in the chest. If the killers had planned to silence the voice of protest, the result was just the opposite.
People streamed out of their homes at night and when daylight broke, the sleepy policemen in Sutia outpost found themselves surrounded by a huge crowd of women. The mob stormed in, drove out the cops and wrecked furniture. A police bike and a jeep were damaged. Then, the protesters moved to the streets. The blockade of Gobardanga-Berigopalpur Road started at 5am. Bombs and bullets fail to deter crusaders Apolice team from Gaighata tried to evict the women by force but was beaten back. SP Champak Bhattacharya rushed to the spot with a large police and RAF contingent but the mob refused to budge, demanding to know why 11 of the Sutia rape accused were still roaming free. It took hours of negotiation before the blockade was lifted at 3pm on the promise that the killers would be arrested.
Police records say that at least 30 women were repeatedly raped in Sutia between 2001 and 2003. The actual number could be even more. This is apart from 80 murder and robbery cases in the tiny hamlet, about 15 minutes from the Bangladesh border. With the mafia land out of police jurisdiction, the people were virtually enslaved until Barun Biswas, who lived in nearby Panchkuta village, gave them hope. He roped in locals to form the Pratibadi Manch. Hundreds flocked to him, from farmers to students and homemakers to doctors.
Eventually, news of his protest trickled out and made front-page headlines. The administration was forced to act and the kingpins of the gang — Susanta Chowdhury, Bireswar Dhali, Ramen Majumdar, Ripon Biswas, Anil Bala and Laxman Tarafdar — were arrested. In 2004, five of them were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Barun, as the prime witness in the case, was repeatedly attacked but refused to give in. Mancha president Nani Gopal Poddar, who too has escaped several attempts on his life, alleges that those absconding in the gang-rape accused and those jailed had plotted the murder. “On March 14 last year, two gunmen fired at me in Sutia Bazar. In 2003, goons hurled bombs at me. I somehow survived but was hospitalized for a long time,” said Poddar. “Barun’s murder was the handiwork of those who are operating from behind bars. Police should have been more active to arrest all the culprits,” he added.
Barun’s neighbour Arup Biswas also believes that the murder was plotted from behind bars to bring back the reign of terror in Sutia. “But the people will not bow to the criminals. The fight that Barun started, hundreds of people will continue,” he said.
Police say they are not yet sure what led to Barun’s murder. “The exact motive has not been ascertained. We are looking into all possible angles. We arrested a suspect on Thursday night and he is being interrogated. Raids are on to nab the others,” said the SP.
Food minister Jyotipriya Mullick condemned the murder and demanded a proper investigation. He said Barun was a Trinamool Congress activist.