It was a warm September day in 2007. Newlywed Priyanka Todi, 23, the daughter of an influential Calcutta businessman, found herself being packed off from her in-laws’ house and sent back to live with her parents. Neither she nor her husband, Rizwanur Rahman, a 29-year-old graphic designer who came from a humble background, wanted her to leave. But, in a bizarre turn of events, allegedly acting on behalf of the girl’s irate father, the Calcutta Police had forced the move. It had called the couple to the police headquarters for ‘interrogation’ several times and advised them to annul the marriage. When they refused, the police persuaded Priyanka to return to her parents’ home for just a week and reassured the distraught husband that if he was cooperative she would return to him within a due date. That day came and went.
What followed is well known. Rizwanur was found dead beside a railway track on September 21, his mangled face and body barely recognisable. While the initial police claim that it was suicide backfired with allegations that it had driven him to kill himself, a subsequent Central Bureau of Investigation probe also investigated the murder angle. And as public outrage poured forth, accompanied by continuous media attention, the political opposition pounced on it—West Bengal’s large Muslim voteshare was deemed to be up for grabs. With its police accused of hounding a poor Muslim youth to his death in collusion with the girl’s rich business family, the Left rulers had let down their most loyal support base. Outraged Muslim mobs rioted in sections of Calcutta on September 22, viciously targeting the police.