Beaten and hunted by colleagues: Ordeal of a Muslim cop in West Bengal

On a very ordinary morning of 6 August last year, a police constable in West Bengal, Suraf Hussain and his family were attacked by his colleagues. Their lives have taken unexpected and unpleasant turns since then. Photo: Suraf Hussain (left), wife Tania and daughter Samreena.

On a very ordinary morning of 6 August last year, a police constable in West Bengal, Suraf Hussain and his family were attacked by his colleagues. Their lives have taken unexpected and unpleasant turns since then.

On that day, Suraf, who is a constable in West Bengal police, had just inquired why the police officers were looking for his 85-year-old uncle Hossain Ali Mondol at his residence when the cops and civic volunteers, led by Somnath Das, started verbally abusing him with anti-Muslim slangs. Resisting this abuse led to a physical assault and a legal battle that has engulfed their lives and still is far from over.

Following the assault, Suraf and his wife Tania were arrested too. Tania who was expecting a child at the moment had suffered a miscarriage, got spondylitis pain in her arm and suffered from a nervous breakdown. Suraf himself is currently fighting against two fake attempts to murder cases on him. All the while, the attackers have faced no punishment but have been shielded from it and continued to work seamlessly in their positions of authority, according to the family. 

In a case registered in Jibontola Police Station which is far from Suraf’s residence, the cops were looking for Hossain Ali Mondol.

Suraf’s brother Arif Hussain said to Maktoob that the some anti-social elements in Beniabou wanted to settle some personal scores with Suraf and they instigated the police officers against him. Prompted by them, the police had come looking for Hossain Ali Mondol at Suraf’s residence when neither he nor anyone from his family had anything to do with the case.

Arif shared with Maktoob the images that he had from the day of the attack. These images show the severity of the unprovoked assault. Suraf was beaten mercilessly and his clothes were torn and he was dragged across the playing field right in front of his home.

Female neighbours can be seen being beaten and pushed by male cops inappropriately in these images. In one of the images, female police officer Priya Sen can be seen hitting Tania with a lathi on her womb when she was several months pregnant.

Samreena, Suraf’s 14 years old daughter said to Maktoob that Priya Sen along with two male officers also entered her room to take her phone suspecting she might have filmed their action. They slapped her twice when she did not give away her phone. Along with the phone, their family jewellery was also taken away, The compensation for which, till the time of writing, has not been given.

Suraf was tied with a thick nylon rope while being dragged in the field without any clothes in front of his old mother, daughter and the whole locality before being put in the police van and being arrested. He was released in a few days’ time but his ordeals were far from over.

According to his lawyer adv. Anisur Rahman, when Suraf had resisted the cops’ abuse and assault it had hurt their egos. They were vexed at the prospect of a Muslim constable questioning their unsolicited presence at his private property. They wanted to show him “his place.”

Soon after the assault, police officers registered a case against Suraf (case no. 646 in Sonarpur PS) under 15 provisions of the Indian penal code, including IPC 307 attempt to murder. In this case, Suraf was named as accused alongside his sisters-in-law and Hossain Ali Mondol.

The charges were framed by Prosanta Das, additional OC Sonarpur, who is the de facto complainant. Prasanta claims to have been present during the “raid” and being lethally attacked however neighbours and lawyer Rahman denied that he was even present.

This case is still active and by the order of the Calcutta High Court, the investigation, in this case, has been shifted to Narendrapur Police Station. Sushobhon Sarkar, additional OC of Narendrapur PS, is now in charge of the case, under the direct supervision of Baruipur SP.

The family expressed their apprehensions about their prospects at getting justice within the legal framework as the nexus of cops and authorities is a serious concern for them.

When this was not enough the cops again filed a separate case of an attempt to murder. This time they used a woman to accuse Suraf. At the time when this case was filed, Suraf was bedridden with his injuries. Lawyer Rahman said to Maktoob that the woman’s father has given a written declaration that nothing of this sort ever happened and his daughter has been coerced to file this case. The declaration affidavit has been verified.

Suraf’s wife Tania explains how in the initial days following the assault, she was very actively seeking justice for her husband and family.

Tania met a lot of people, gave interviews, wrote letters to authorities and even chief minister Mamata Banerjee. No response and communication from the state for which Suraf worked, and continues to do so, disheartened and disturbed her to a great extent.

The trauma of the attack has been too overwhelming for her, she said to Maktoob. Tania is now evidently shaken because of the assault and her irreplaceable loss and did not wish to remember or talk about that life-altering day at all.

Currently, she is recovering from a myriad of health issues, including nervous breakdowns and spondylitis because of the assault.

Maktoob received a copy of her prescriptions and verified that she has been taking several medications for pain relief and calming down her nerves. 

Arif said to Maktoob that the same band of anti-social elements in the area who instigated the police in the first place had several times contacted Suraf and his family members claiming that they can get the police to drop charges and leave this case behind if they too do not pursue legal action against the assaulting officers.

Lawyer Rahman also expressed his disappointment at the pace of the legal proceedings in the matter. He thinks that getting substantive legal justice will be hard. He claims, the attitude of the authorities suggest that they are not willing to punish several high-ranking police officers to give justice to one Muslim constable. The family now wishes to get an independent body like the CBI or an SIT under a retired High Court judge to investigate these cases. 

Samreena, the 14 years old child, was the unfortunate witness and victim of this whole process. She has been quite disturbed since the attack. A quiet child, she couldn’t prevent tears from dropping from her eyes while talking about the incident and its aftermath.

Samreena summed it up by saying, “they had mercilessly beaten my father. They tied him and dragged him while he was naked. There’s nothing worse I could see.”

A week after the brutal assault, Maktoob spoke to Suraf and his family and published a detailed report on 14 August 2021. You can read that report here.