Three more killed in Bengal over panchayat board formation, toll 4 since Aug 25
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Three more killed in Bengal over panchayat board formation, toll 4 since Aug 25

Two persons were killed in Manikchak of Malda district on Monday, one person lost his life in Raghunathpur in Purulia.

india Updated: Aug 27, 2018 19:27 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, Berhampore/Midnapore
Bengal panchayat board,Panchayat board,Violence in Bengal
Polling officials put an ink mark on a voter's finger after during panchayat election at a polling booth in Howrah district of West Bengal on May 14.(PTI File Photo)

Violence continued over the formation of panchayat boards in Bengal with three persons being killed in clashes in two districts of the state, taking the death toll since August 25 to four.

While two persons were killed in Manikchak of Malda district on Monday, one person lost his life in Raghunathpur in Purulia. Clashes were also reported from Deganga in North 24 Parganas, Chopra in North Dinajpur and Howrah districts.

Salam Sheikh (34) and Azhar Sheikh (64), both residents of Gopalpur-Hukumattola area in Malda, about 345 km to the north of Kolkata, were killed when clashes broke out allegedly between two factions of ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). Several persons, including three-year-old Jishan Sheikh, were injured.

Malda police superintendent Arnab Ghosh visited the spot but refused to comment. Police arrested three persons in connection with the incident.

From early morning on Monday, hundreds of armed youths encircled the gram panchayat office in Manikchak. Around 9:30 am, a clash broke out, allegedly among supporters of two TMC camps – one led by former minister from Manikchak, Sabitri Mitra, and the saha-sabhadhipati of the Malda zilla parishad Gour Mondal.

However TMC’s Malda working president Babla Sarkar alleged local Congress MLA Md Mottakin Alam had led some goons to surround the gram panchayat office from Monday early morning so that TMC members couldn’t reach the spot to form the board.

“When our supporters tried to force their way, the Congress-backed goons started hurling bombs. They also used firearms. Two of our workers were killed,” he alleged.

Alam dismissed the allegations. ”I am in Kolkata today. How could I lead the attack. Everyone knows that a month ago all five Congress members of Gopalpur gram panchayat joined the TMC,” he said.

Even as clashes were reported allegedly between TMC factions, Malda’s Congress unit president, Mausam Benazir Noor instructed her party leaders to support the ruling party in the 146 gram panchayats that are hung in the district.

“We have decided to support all anti-BJP parties including the TMC to form hung rural body boards to prevent the BJP in West Bengal,” she said. TMC district president Dulal Ghosh, too, said they are cooperating with Congress to keep BJP out.

In the other incident, Niranjan Gope, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker, was killed when party activists clashed with TMC supporters in Khajura village of Ghagra gram panchayat in Jaypur of Purulia, 276 km to the west of Kolkata.

Trouble started over submission of caste certificates on Monday, alleged locals.

“Our worker, Niranjan Gope, died on the spot as bullets hit him when police and TMC men fired. More than 10 were injured, some of them critically,” alleged Bidyasagar Charaborty, Purulia district BJP president.

Police rejected the BJP’s charges.

“Police did not fire. On the contrary, bombs were hurled and bullets were fired at us. Four to five cops were injured,” Akash Magharia, police superintendent of Purulia, told the media.

Shantiram Mahato, district TMC president said his party was not involved: “No one of our party is involved. It is the handiwork of the BJP. Several outsiders came and they created trouble.”

In a cabinet meeting on Monday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee asked her ministers to ensure there is no trouble in their respective districts over the formation of panchayat boards, which are tasked with formulating plans and implementing schemes at the village level. A key task in setting up the boards involves the election of pradhan and upa-pradhan from the elected members to run the affairs of the panchayat.

“Trouble broke out in certain places of the state over panchayat board formation. I have asked the administration and police to deal with such situations firmly. A group of people are targeting policemen. One of our police officers was badly injured,” she said at the state secretariat.

On Saturday, Lal Mohammad, 45, a TMC worker was killed in Islampur of North Dinajpur district. Police said Mohammad was hit by a bomb as a clash broke out when members of Panditpota 1 gram panchayat were meeting to elect the president.

The panchayat elections in the state in May were marked by violence from the first hour of nomination on April 2. Opposition leaders have claimed that more than 50 persons lost their lives in the polls.

First Published: Aug 27, 2018 19:27 IST