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West Bengal: Bhangar on the boil after Trinamool leader is shot dead

The West Bengal Police have deployed additional forces to maintain calm as tension rose in Bhangar following the shooting of a Trinamool Congress leader.

india Updated: Jul 30, 2017 16:38 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Bhangar has been intermittently rocked by an agitation against land acquisition for large infrastructure projects.
Bhangar has been intermittently rocked by an agitation against land acquisition for large infrastructure projects.(HT FILE PHOTO)

The shooting of a local Trinamool Congress leader in Bhangar in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal on Sunday has raised tension in the area that had been simmering on the back of an agitation against land acquisition.

The victim, Asikur Rahman (48), was killed after he was hit on the head by a bullet allegedly fired by a land protester when he was returning from the residence of another Trinamool leader, Arabul Islam.

When contacted additional director general (law & order), Anuj Sharma told HT, that the police is investigating the matter. “We are yet to arrest anyone or pin point anyone responsible for the shooting. However, we are investigating the matter and enough police personnel have been deployed in the area to avoid further tension,” Sharma said.

Rahman was the office bearer of Bhangar II panchyat samiti. Local Trinamool leaders claimed that he was shot by the activists of a protest group called Jami, Jibika, Paribesh O Bastutantra Raksha Committee (committee to protect land, livelihood, environment and ecosystem), which had been spearheading the land agitation at Bhangar which is about 33 km south of Kolkata.

Floated by Naxal outfit, CPI-ML (red Star), the committee and its land movement at Bhangar rare backed by the CPI(M)-led Left Front, CPI-ML (Liberation), Majdoor Kranti Parishad and Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR).

“The situation at Bhangar was quite tense since Sunday morning following the preparation of a rally by the committee. Rahman went to Arabul Islam’s residence to discuss some panchayat related matters. While returning as he reached Notunhat area he was hit by a bullet on his head. The bullet was fired from the Machidnaga side, where activists of the said committee assembled for the rally. Later I heard that bullets were fired towards Arabul Islam,” said local Trinamool Congress leader, Hakimul Islam.

Read more: Bhangar farmers prepare for fresh land movement as leaders get bail

Members of the said land agitation committee flatly denied the allegations and said that Rahman’s killing was result of internal rivalry between two factions of Trinamool.

“There are two rival groups in Trinamool at Bhangar, one lead by Arabul Islam and the other by Kaizar Ahmed. Clashes between these two groups are nothing new at Bhangar and Rahman’s killing is a fallout of that internal rivalry,” said an office bearer of the committee.

Hakimul Islam, however, rubbished allegations of internal rivalry and said that the committee members were resorting to falsehoods to hide their own misdeeds. “Maoists are actively involved with the committee affairs and they are responsible for Rahman’s killing,” he said.

The agitation in Bhangar was launched last year and the villagers there stalled completion of a Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL) project citing suspected environmental and health hazards. Police arrested several leaders of the committee like Pradip Singh Thakur, Sharmistha Chowdhury, Shankar Das and Kushal Debnath and booked them under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

However, all of them were granted bails, which gave a boost the committee to renew land agitation at Bhangar.

Sunday’s rally was supposed to have been addressed by leaders of all constituents of the committee.