Rizwanur Rahman - A Victim of Hollow Pride

. 10/8/07

The lifeless body of Rizwanur Rahman, a 30-year-old graphics designer, was found lying on the rail tracks near Dum Dum station in Kolkata on September 21. This was exactly a month and three days after Rahman and Priyanka Todi had got married at the office of a registrar against the wishes of the latter’s family, especially that of the young woman’s father, industrialist Ashok Todi. In the intervening period, evidence, including Rahman’s letter to an NGO, suggested that not only was the young man threatened by the Todi family and told to ‘remove himself’ from Priyanka’s life, but he was also ‘advised’ by the police to forget about this ‘impossible’ marriage. Ironically, it was the police that the couple had initially asked for protection from goons who they feared Mr Todi would send after them. Since Kolkata woke up to the horrific news of the death of Rizwanur Rahman, the possibility that members of the police force may have been ‘hired’ by a rich industrialist to separate his daughter from her husband has actually jolted civil society out of its torpor.

There is much ink and breath being expended on what the incident means for West Bengal’s image as a secular society. This is not at the core of this particular issue. Whether West Bengal has infestations of ‘communalism’, or if its Muslim population is discriminated against, or whether the secular veneer hides an age-old ‘religious’ divide are serious questions, but not central to the task at hand. Which is to find out who were behind the death of Rahman and whether the police did help one citizen bump off another. The reasons behind Mr Todi’s opposition to the Rizwanur-Priyanka match could have been the vast gulf in the economic status of his family and the one which his daughter went to live in. It could have been Rahman’s being a Muslim that was unacceptable to Mr Todi. It could well have been a combination of the socio-economic and religious reasons. But this does not concern us. What does is whether a murder is being hushed up by a powerful, well-connected person, the trail of which could include a member of the state cricket board and the Kolkata Police Commissioner himself. The manner in which the current probe is being conducted by the state’s Criminal Investigation Department suggests that those entrusted with the duty of getting to the bottom of the matter are not keen on the job. Also, how can Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee expect an unbiased probe against the two police officers suspected of working at Mr Todi’s behest when they continue to remain part of the force?

The state of West Bengal is indeed rotten when the police declare that it is well within their rights to ‘interfere’ in the lives of people, when no crime or misdemeanor has been committed. Let a CBI probe first find out to what extent the police had interfered in the lives of the young Mr and Mrs Rahman. Then we can talk about how a bhadralok government can take a shameful recourse to dadagiri.

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