Mohammed Manik Jumps Into Turbulent Mal River, Saves 9 Lives
Image courtesy: The Telegraph
In this huge human tragedy, there is surely a lesson for the intolerant. Arkamoy Datta Majumudar and the Telegraph's local Jalpaiguri correspondent reported this heroic tale from an incident that took place during the Durga Puja immersions in Kolkata.
Mohammad Manik, a young 28 year-old, has always been enthralled by the spectacle of the immersions. He would, therefore, visit the banks of the Mal river year after year, on Dashami and watch.
The festivities turned into a grim tragedy this year. And this Dashami, Mohammad Manik was called upon to act. Manik, a devout Muslim, jumped into the dangerously swelling waters of the river Mal, risking his life to save people who had been caught unawares by a sudden current in the river, caused by heavy rain in its catchment area.
Eight lives were lost. Manik saved at least nine others, though according to eye-witnesses Among those rescued and saved, were three children and four women apart from a couple, caught clinging to each other as the river threatened to sweep them away.
“I saw people, children as young as my son, being swept away. I couldn’t just stand and watch; so I jumped in and tried my best to rescue people,” Manik told the Telegraph, himself, the father of a three-year-old boy. He was speaking from the site of tragedy and heroism in Malbazar town, Jalpaiguri district.
“I can’t give you the exact count but, yes, I did help several people reach the banks,” he told The Telegraph.
“I’m glad that none of the people I rescued are critical.... They had all gulped a lot of water, though."
Who is Mohammad Manik?
Manik, a welder, lives in West Tesimala village, a few kilometres from Malbazar, with his parents, wife, son and younger brother. Though a devout Muslim, he has always taken part in the Durga Puja festivities. “Every year I would visit the immersion site with a friend,” Manik said.
The waters began rising around 8.30pm, shortly after Manik arrived at the site. He saw people — many of whom had got into the water with the idols and others who were watching from the banks — getting caught in the swell and being swept away. Without a second thought, he quickly handed over his mobile phone to his friend and dived in.
“People were screaming for help. Whoever I found nearby, I dragged them out of the water. The current was quite strong,” Manik said.
After Manik, the lifejacket-clad civil defence volunteers stationed at the site also jumped in. Thereafter, the fire brigade arrived and the National Disaster Response Force joined in over an hour later.
Manik described how he participated in the rescue operation for more than two hours — till about 11pm — helping bring to the shore, survivors clinging to rocks in the river or marooned on sandbanks.
“Sometime in between, I realised that my toe (big toe of right foot) was bleeding. A fire-fighter handed me a handkerchief and I tied it round the cut. Then I resumed helping people,” he said.
At the end of a gruelling few hours, his body gave up. Around 11.30 pm, he reached the Mal hospital in an ambulance and received first aid. He then returned home accompanied by a friend.
Manik also described how he is associated with two citizens organisations that help people by conducting blood donation camps and providing clothes and food to the poor. “Our groups have people from all faiths,” he said.
The incident has been captured on a video circulating widely on social media. In this, one of Mohammad's friends says: “If we had a few more Maniks, there would be fewer casualties. We are proud of him.”
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