11 held, 2 cops suspended, BJP wants Centre to act
Kolkata: At least eight persons were burnt to death after their homes were torched by a violent mob on Monday night in Birbhum of West Bengal, following the murder of a Trinamul Congress leader over a feud. The death toll may rise.
The massacre, which has put the TMC government in a tight spot, unfolded at Boktui village in Rampurhat after a gang of four miscreants, travelling on two motorcycles with their faces covered, hurled bombs on upa pradhan (deputy chief) Bhadu Sheikh of Boroshal gram panchayat, at a tea stall on Monday evening.
Sheikh was declared brought dead at Rampurhat Hospital. State DGP Manoj Malviya ruled out "any political angle" and hinted at "personal enmity" behind the murder. The victim's family accused his party colleagues of killing him over an internal feud after the murder of his brother Babar last year.
Within an hour of Sheikh's murder, his followers retaliated, setting at least seven-eight houses on fire after locking the residents from outside. Azizul Haque, an official of the Rampurhat fire station, told the media that three charred bodies were recovered on Monday night while seven more were found at a house early Tuesday. The list of victims which include many women and children, is yet to be identified due to severe burns.
Malviya said, "At night three injured persons were admitted to hospital. One of them succumbed to injuries later. Besides, seven bodies were recovered on Tuesday from one of the houses owned by Sanju Sheikh. Altogether eight were dead. 11 persons were arrested."
He added that SDPO (Rampurhat) Shayan Ahmed and Rampurhat police station OC Tridip Pramanik were suspended while a special investigation team led by ADG(CID) Gyanwant Singh was formed for a probe.
At the Assembly, BJP MLAs staged a walkout and demanded Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's resignation. Putting the death toll at 12, the leader of the opposition Suvendu Adhikari sought the Centre's intervention.
He claimed, "It is up to the Centre to decide whether Article 355 or 356 should be imposed here. But we seek a NIA probe in the murder of the TMC gram panchayat functionary by bomb explosion and a CBI probe in the killings of the villagers."
The BJP also moved the Calcutta High Court for a suo motu cognizance of the incident and sent a memorandum to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
TMC district president Anubrata Mondal claimed, "A fire broke out in three-four houses after a TV set exploded due to a short circuit. Seven people died in the incident. The fire brigade were pressed into service immediately to douse the flames. The police are investigating the incident." He however suspected a link between the massacre and the TMC leader's killing.
State transport minister Firhad Hakim, who visited Boktui along with two TMC MLAs– Asish Banerjee of Rampurhat and Avijit Singha of Bolpur– on their party supremo's order, alleged a "conspiracy by some people trying to malign Bengal" behind the bloodbath.