Suvojit BagchiKOLKATA,

Threatened, asked to leave city

For the first few hours of Saturday morning, Dr. Rafique Dar (name changed to protect identity), had made up his mind to leave Kolkata.

The Kashmiri cardiologist was threatened and told to leave the city to ensure the safety of his family. But by evening, he changed his mind following a massive outpouring of what he described as “love and care from his fellow city dwellers.” The middle-aged doctor from Srinagar has been residing in Kolkata since 2007.

“I have made this my home and I want to live here,” said Dr. Dar, who is married to a Bengali Christian teacher. But following two incidents in quick succession, his confidence in Kolkata started receding.

On Saturday morning, a group of men encircled him at his doorstep and told him they would “destroy” his family if he did not leave for Kashmir in 24 hours. The men, unarmed and in their 20s, abused him and Kashmiris, for the Pulwama attack. A similar incident took place on Friday evening.

“They repeatedly said that they would harm my family and wife,” Dr. Dar said, sitting in his spacious living room in south Kolkata’s Tiljala area. The doctor from Srinagar’s Government Medical College requested that he should not be identified, or his family or even his neighbourhood.

The earlier incident, the first after the Pulwama attack, took place on Friday evening as Dr. Dar stepped out to buy groceries. “A separate set of men encircled me, identified me as a Kashmiri and threatened me,” he said.

Following the incidents, Dr. Dar wrote to the Chief Minister, who did not respond, but the chairperson of the State’s Child Rights Commission, Ananya Chakraborty, called to ensure his safety. Earlier, the Home Ministry had issued an advisory to the States to provide safety to Kashmiris. Dr. Dar thanked a Kashmiri journalist for circulating his post where he appealed for “protection”, which went viral.

Among the early respondents was a Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) activist Sumaan Sengupto. He spoke to his friend Samim Ahmed, a noted writer, and informed the police.

“I think the officer informed the local Tiljala Police Station and they acted promptly,” Sengupto said.

Kolkata has about 50 Kashmiri women and men working in mostly in the private sector. The number goes up in the winter as the families of Kashmiri residents visit the city. Besides, an unknown number of dry fruit and garments retailers have visited the city periodically, over decades. The police do not have any record of them. “Because we never had any major problem with the Kashmiris visiting the city,” said a retired Commissioner of Kolkata Police.

One of the two Kolkata police personnel posted outside Dr. Dar’s flat said that they are “posted in shifts to provide round-the-clock security.” Dr. Dar said that officials were meeting him periodically, exchanging “a few friendly words to boost confidence” while his phone had not stopped ringing since the post went viral. Following such support, Dr. Dar changed his mind by late evening on Saturday.

“There are so many people around, so many are offering us to stay with them, calling or visiting us. I’m feeling happy and secured,” he said. However, he still is worried about his two daughters, who go to a nearby school. “Is it possible to provide security to the kids throughout the year?” he asks.

Meanwhile, the public address system perched on the roof of the mobile vans of Kolkata Police are asking people to “maintain calm and peace,” while small rallies are brought out to advocate an attack on Pakistan.

courtesy – The Hindu