West Bengal

Ten killed in Trinamool gang war

Print edition : May 26, 2017

Ashok Bhattacharya, Siliguri Mayor belonging to the CPI(M), in a hospital after he was attacked during a Corporation meeting. Photo: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

AT least 10 persons died in two districts of the State within a span of five days in an escalation of factional feuds within the ruling Trinamool Congress and violence allegedly by its goons.

On the afternoon of April 21, a massive blast in a house in Labhpur village in Birbhum district claimed nine lives and exposed the culture of violence and gang war prevalent in the region. The house was apparently being used to make and store crude bombs, and the bombs exploded when they were being made.

Labhpur had been on the boil for a while, with two gangs headed by Soheb Ali of the Darbarpur locality and Ahadur Sheikh of Mirbandh, both allegedly belonging to the Trinamool Congress, locked in a vicious battle to seize control of the illegal sand mining operations on the bank of the Mayurakshi river near the village. Although violence over the control of sand is not new to the region, never had it reached such a scale. Sources in the locality claimed that tension mounted in the region on the morning of April 21, with intermittent clashes between the gangs. “The explosion took place when the gang at Darbarpur was preparing bombs to retaliate after the Mirbandh gang attacked it in the morning. The police state that nine persons died, but there may well be more as the gangs allegedly removed some of the bodies hurriedly,” an infromed source in the region said. As of May 1, more than 20 people had been arrested, but the gang leaders, Ahadur and Soheb, continued to elude arrest.

“Some of the local people say that as many as 25 persons may have been killed in the blast. So many people dead in just one incident, this has not happened in our recent history. It is a terrifying reflection of the state of things here. This criminalisation of politics has now become institutionalised,” said Ram Chandra Dome, senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader from Birbhum and a former Lok Sabha member.

The incident has caused considerable embarrassment to the Trinamool Congress. The party heavyweight of the region, Anubrata Mondal, initially tried to pass the blame on to the opposition, claiming it was the CPI(M)’s doing. Subsequently, he said it was neither the CPI(M) nor the Trinamool but the sand mafia that was behind the violence.

Five days earlier, on April 17, in Nadia district, a senior Trinamool leader, Dulal Biswas, was shot dead inside his party’s office by a group of gunmen who arrived on motorcycles. Though once again the Trinamool leader laid the blame at the door of the opposition, many believe that infighting within the party was the reason for the killing. Dismissing the allegations, senior CPI(M) leader and member of the Legislative Assembly Sujan Chakraborty told Frontline: “The Trinamool blamed the CPI(M) and the Bharatiya Janata Party to be behind the killing, but we from the CPI(M), upon investigation, have come to know that it is the result of a faction fight within the Trinamool.” In fact, according to BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who is in charge of West Bengal, as many as 20 Trinamool supporters have been killed in violent inner-party conflicts since the Trinamool returned to power in 2016.

This has by no means reduced the incidence of Trinamool violence against opposition parties. According to Ram Chandra Dome, since the Trinamool’s return to power, in Birbhum district alone more than 10 CPI(M) party offices have been forced to remain closed, and at least 300 party workers have been driven out of their homes.

Pitched battles between workers of the ruling and opposition parties have become a routine occurrence. On April 29, while BJP and Trinamool workers clashed in Shibpur, Howrah district, in south Bengal (in which more than 30 people, including 12 policemen were injured), in north Bengal, the mayor of Siliguri Municipal Corporation, veteran CPI(M) leader Ashok Bhattacharya, had to be hospitalised after he was attacked by Trinamool councillors during a Corporation meeting. “It was while the session was on and I was speaking that the Trinamool councillors took exception to what I was saying and began hurling objects at me. One of the missiles hit me in the head. I collapsed, but I still continued with my speech. They cannot fight me politically, so they are now trying to intimidate me with violence,” Bhattacharya told Frontline.

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay

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