Bengal Minister-cum-beedi baron Jakir Hossain grievously injured in bomb attack at railway station; Mamata alleges “big conspiracy”

Published : February 18, 2021 14:47 IST

Jakir Hossein, West Bengal Minister of State for Labour, seen in this screengrab moments before the bomb attack on him at the Nimtita railway station in Murshidabad district.

The bomb attack on Jakir Hossain, Minister of State for Labour in Mamata Banerjee’s government, on the night of February 17 highlights once again the escalation of political violence in West Bengal as the Assembly election draws near and the alarming decline in the law and order situation. Hossain, Trinamool Congress’ strongman in Murshidabad district, was at Nimtita station to board a train for Kolkata when the attack took place. Though his legs took the brunt of the blast, he was also hurt in his arms, chest and face. Hossain was admitted to the SSKM government hospital in Kolkata on February 18. Twenty-six others were injured in the attack. Mamata Banerjee called it a pre-planned attack and “big conspiracy” to kill the Minister.

Though it is not yet certain how the attack was executed – whether the bomb was hurled or whether it was strategically placed on the railway platform – it appears to be a pre-meditated attempt on the Minister’s life. Mamata Banerjee said that prima facie evidence showed that it was a planned attack, and she put the blame squarely on the Railway Ministry, and accused it of not cooperating with the State government in the ongoing investigation. She said: “First of all, it happened at a railway station, and at the time of the blast there were no railway police at the station, and the place was in darkness as there were no lights on. It is railway property in which the incident took place, and hence It is not a law and order problem for the State.” She alleged that the Railways was taking the matter casually while it was entirely its responsibility. “It is a very big, big conspiracy, and we want the truth to come out,” said Mamata. She alleged that for quite some time “some people have been constantly telling Jakir to come over to their side.”

She said Jakir always travelled with a large number of people, and so those who planned the assassination chose bomb blast rather than a gunshot. A Special Task Force of the CID (Criminal Investigation Department) has been ordered to probe the blast. Mamata said some of the patients who were admitted along with Jakir were in a very serious condition. “It is an unbearable sight. Some of them have lost their limbs, some have had their faces severely scorched,” she said. She promised that the State government would provide artificial limbs to those who needed them, and announced Rs.5 lakh compensation to those seriously injured, and Rs.1 lakh to those whose injuries were less in comparison. The Bharatiya Janata Party has demanded that the incident be investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Jakir Hossain is one of the most popular political leaders in the Aurangabad region of Murshidabad district and also the proprietor of Shiv Bidi, one of the biggest bidi brands in the country. Hossain has also reportedly been vocal in his opposition to the cattle smuggling racket that is rampant in Murshidabad district, which shares a border with Bangladesh. According to sources in Murshidabad, faction feud within the Trinamool just before the election cannot be ruled out as a cause. The Trinamool has insinuated the hand of the opposition parties behind the attempted murder.

The opposition parties, including the BJP and the Congress, while condemning the attack, criticised the State government on the declining law and order situation. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, MP from Murshidabad and Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, claimed that it was Jakir’s opposition to corruption in the district that triggered the attack on him. Dilip Ghosh, BJP State president and Lok Sabha MP, said, “This shows that West Bengal is not safe even for Ministers. The law and order has totally failed.”

Countering the allegation, senior Trinamool Minister Firhad Hakim said that Ministers in Bengal were not safe because the opposition parties were not allowing them to remain safe. “The opposition parties are not allowing West Bengal to remain safe. In Gujarat 2,000 people were killed. An MP was burnt to death there. But let there be an enquiry first. This is not the time to indulge in political bickering,” said Hakim. He alleged that the opposition parties may be pointing at Trinamool’s internecine feud as the reason behind the attack to “divert the blame from them”. He said violence had left Bengal after 2011 when Mamata Banerjee assumed power in the State, “but of late the BJP is importing it from Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh”. The last time an attempt was made on a sitting Minister’s life was in 2008 when a bomb was hurled at the residence of Left Front Minister Subhas Naskar during the panchayat elections. Naskar’s nephew’s wife was killed in the attack.

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