Naxals killed their son, their only breadwinner
The silence in the room was deafening except for occasional muffled whimpers. Tapan Ghosh, grieving father of policeman Sanjay, who was killed by Maoists in West Bengal's Bankura district recently, could not hold his tears as he talked about the inhuman killing of his only son, the sole breadwinner of his family.
More than a week ago, two contingents drawn from the India Reserve Battalion and the State Armed Police, had set out from their camps in Barikul. About 150 armed Maoists attacked the two patrol teams, each comprising 30 personnel.
The encounter, about 1-2 km from the police camps, continued for hours after which five policemen were missing. Of them, three injured were traced and IRB assistant sub-inspector Sanjay was found dead a few kilometres away.
Necessity knows no law, goes the cliched adage. And poverty, perhaps, transcends all barriers. Therefore, though Sanjay's kin are yet to recover from the shock and trauma following the tragedy, they are overwhelmed by another anxiety -- how to feed the family of four.
Journalists are trained to be indifferent towards situations -- they are tutored to wear dispassionate glasses while reporting events.
But some proceedings are so laden with grief and pain that they force even a 'seasoned' scribe to empathise with the interviewees. The plight of the Ghoshs of Santragachhi in Shibpur was a case in point.
Reportage: Indrani Roy Mitra
Image: (From front to back) Sanjay Ghosh's father, his sister Mohua and his mother Pratima
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
'He did not deserve this death'
Ghosh's 100-square-foot suburban home had poverty written all over it.
"We have struggled throughout our lives," said Tapan, who could only manage a modest job that never paid him enough to give his family a comfortable life.
"My brother was not too bright a student, but he was a great athlete. He was often invited by local clubs to play football. He was so full of life," said Sanjay's elder sister Mahua.
Soon after passing the class X examination, Sanjay had got his name enrolled in the employment exchange.
After a long wait, he got a call from them about two years back.
"Bhai's interview went off very well and it soon landed him a job at the India Reserve Battalion," Mahua told rediff.com.
"It was a dream job for him. Sanju always wanted to be in the police. Though baba could not afford his studies beyond class X, Sanju always hoped to get an entry into the police force somehow," she said.
"He was so caring and responsible. He used to spend a lion's share of his salary on buying essentials for the home. During his monthly visits, he would try and keep everyone around him happy.
"We all were worried about his posting at the Maoist-infested camp. He too was not comfortable but never disclosed his feelings. He always said 'I have to stick to this job, I have to share baba's burden'.""Sanju was not only good-looking, he was very affable and helpful, a darling among his friends. He did not deserve such an untimely and brutal death."
Image: A file picture of ASI Sanjay Ghosh
'He was our hope for a better life'
The Ghoshs lived on the paltry salary that Tapan earned as an estate manager in a remote Bengal village.
"We had to let go all of our savings to marry off two of our daughters. With whatever little I earned, we could not afford higher education for any of them. Our only hope was Sanju," Tapan told rediff.com.
"When he got a job, we thanked God. Sad days will be over soon, we thought. But little did we know " his words got drowned in another sea of uncontrollable sobs. His wife, Pratima, stepped in quickly and throwing an angry glare at us, she tried to comfort her husband, in vain.
"What's the use of this media coverage? Why are you taking our photographs? What will your news get us? Will it get us a means of livelihood?" she said.
"You know how brutally my son was killed?""His body was so badly mutilated, I could not even recognise Sanju. Do you think your report can do justice to my pain? Can you actually paint my grief in words? No, you can't. Only I know how it hurts here," she said, pointing to her heart.
Image: Tapan Ghosh, Sanjay's father
'We may soon starve to death'
We stood there, speechless -- the photographer accompanying me quickly hiding his camera.
But soon, Sanjay's younger sister Rupa came to our 'rescue' and apologised for her mother's 'rudeness'.
"You know, my parents are not in their right minds at the moment. I hope you understand that. Ever since the tragedy struck us, we have not been given any assistance or assurance of aid from the government. We are meeting our daily needs with the little savings we had. Once we run out of that, we will starve to death," she said.
As neither the state or the central government has promised any 'help' or compensation so far to the Ghoshs, Rupa is hoping that she would be offered a government job, however modest, that would help her family survive.
"We appeal to one and all to help us tide over this crisis. My brother was the sole bread earner for our family and he got killed while on duty. I have passed madhyamik (class X). Won't I get some job somewhere that would feed my family?" she asked, her eyes welling up with tears, as her septuagenarian grandmother kept looking at Sanjay's uniform-clad photograph on the wall.
In case you want to offer help:
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Image: Sanjay's sister Rupa Ghosh