Fresh clashes hit Bhatpara; Oppn looks to corner TMC
Fresh clashes erupted in West Bengal’s Bhatpara on Saturday after a three-member Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) delegation visited the violence-scarred North 24-Parganas town to review the ground situation in the aftermath of Thursday’s political violence that claimed two lives.
Minutes after the delegation left, two rival groups, said to be led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), violated prohibitory orders imposed under Section 144 in the area since Thursday, and hurled countrymade bombs and stones at each other. Police had to resort to a lathicharge to disperse the mob.
“Within five minutes of the BJP delegation leaving, crude bombs were hurled from lane number 3 and 4 close to the new police station,” said a local person. A few men were also carrying firearms, locals claimed.
Several people were reported to be injured in the clashes but it could not be independently verified. Reports said anti-police slogans were also raised in the context of Thursday clashes, during which the police are alleged to have fired at some protesters.
However, the BJP and TMC have been blaming each other for the clashes that have been erupting across Bengal since the BJP won 18 seats in the general election in Mamata Banerjee’s backyard, restricting her party to 22.
On Saturday, Bardhaman-Durgapur MP SS Ahluwalia and two other lawmakers Satyapal Malik and Vishnu Dayal Ram did a recce of Bhatpara, barely 30km from Kolkata. They have to submit a report to home minister Amit Shah. The recce was done amid chanting of “Jai Shri Ram” slogans by BJP supporters.
About Thursday’s clashes, in which several people were also injured, Ahluwalia said, “When the clash between two groups took place, police baton-charged one group and shot at the other. We want to know who took that decision. Who was behind this conspiracy? There should be a probe into this.”
The team spoke to the families of Rambabu Shaw and Dharamvir Shaw, who were killed on Thursday. “Police said they fired in the air. How were people hit in that case? Were the victims flying in the air?” Ahluwalia asked.
Holding up the remnants of a bullet, Ahluwalia claimed such bullets were used in SLRs and INSAS rifles. “All those who were hit were common men (with no political affiliation),” he said.
Asked if police had fired on the mob on Thursday, Barrackpore police commissioner Manoj Verma said, “Investigation is going on. I can’t comment on it.”
Ahluwalia said the two men killed were snack vendors. “Both of them were golgappa vendors. Our Barrackpore MP, Arjun Singh, will give their families ~10 lakh each aid and will also take care of educational expenses of the children,” he said.
Singh, who was earlier in the TMC but joined BJP before the elections, later said he would request Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi to visit Bhatpara.
Earlier on Saturday, a joint delegation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), and the Congress visited the troubled areas of Baruipara, Jagaddal and Bhatpara. They have demanded a CBI inquiry into Thursday’s killings.
(With agency inputs)