In an incident that puts West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on the back foot, especially in an election year, eight villagers were killed and 20 injured when they were fired upon by unknown persons holed up inside a CPI(M)-patronised camp near Lalgarh.
Home minister P Chidambaram — who’d last month written to Bhattacharjee asking him to disarm all armed political cadre, including from the CPM — sent the CM another letter, asking him to come immediately to Delhi to discuss the continuing violence. Bhattacharjee agreed but said he wouldn’t be able to meet immediately.
In his earlier letter, Chidambaram had referred to CPM-backed goons as ‘harmads’ (from the Spanish ‘armada’, meaning ‘pirates’ in Bengali) and the CM had objected to the ‘nasty’ word.
Friday’s killings prompted governor MK Narayanan to say: “For our state, it is a day of sorrow and shame. No democracy can allow such violence, no civilised society can tolerate such wanton disregard for human lives and no state can accept such mindless discord.”
“This has gone on for far too long… A decisive stage has been reached for the government to act before it becomes a point of no return,” he added.
The victims, from Netai village, had surrounded the house of CPM leader Rathin Dandapat, who had allegedly sheltered armed thugs. They wanted the camp to be demolished.
“What happened is political violence. Maoists weren’t involved,” said state home secretary GD Gautam. Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee said: “CPM has begun politics of terror.”
State minister Sushanta Ghosh said: “The incident is a result of an alliance between the Trinamool and Maoists.” But some CPM leaders admitted more than 300 rounds were fired from inside the camp.
inputs from Delhi