Lots of police, very few locals. That’s what News18 found on reaching Bogtui village in West Bengal’s Rampurhat area on Wednesday.
At least eight people were burnt alive in their homes by a mob here following the killing of local Trinamool Congress leader Bhadu Sheikh on Monday in an incident that has led to widespread revulsion across the country and has also sparked a political firestorm.
However, most people that News18 came across in Bogtui village denied any knowledge of the mayhem.
“Don’t know. We can’t say anything. We are not from this village,” they kept saying.
There were complaints that there was no police presence on the night of the incident. That has changed dramatically.
As our vehicle reached near Bogtui village, there were police barricades at the entry point. Not many were being allowed in.
Inside the village, police personnel were everywhere.
Bhadu Sheikh’s home was locked. His family members had left on Tuesday.
The house right opposite, which belonged to his rival Sona Sheikh, was burnt down. Seven charred bodies had been recovered from inside.
About 100 metres away was another house that had been reduced to ashes with smoke still emanating.
A bicycle, some cooking utensils, etc, could be seen in the remains.
Many other houses that had survived were locked. The residents had all left with whatever they could gather.
There were some people around, all listening to what politicians and other visitors were saying but not speaking themselves.
“Are you all from this village?” we asked.
Some of them fled. Others said they were not from there and knew nothing about what had happened.
Almost half of the houses were empty.
A little inside the village, we heard some voices. Two women and a man were sitting in the mud verandah of a hut. They were talking among themselves about leaving like the others. “Where will we go?” the man asked one of the women.
We met Sadre Alam Sheikh, a local, with his luggage. “I am going,” he said. “We are afraid. That night was terrifying, and now if we stay here the police will harass us. I am a man. They will target me. That’s why I am leaving.”