West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has called the Rampurhat incident in Birbhum “unfortunate” but added that such incidents are more frequent in UP, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. Banerjee, who will visit Rampurhat on 24 March, said she was not justifying the killings and her government will take action in a fair manner.
“Strict action will be taken against all those responsible for the Birbhum incident, irrespective of their (political) colours,” Banerjee said.
Eight people — up to 20 by unofficial estimates — were charred to death as their houses were set on fire in Bogtui village near Rampurhat town of Birbhum district early yesterday. The incident was possibly a fallout of the murder of a deputy pradhan of Baguti village two nights ago.
“The government is ours, we are concerned about people in our state. We would never want anyone to suffer. The Rampurhat incident in District Birbhum is unfortunate. I have immediately dismissed the OC, SDPO. I will go to Rampurhat tomorrow,” Banerjee said.
Taking a dig at the BJP, Banerjee said, “This is Bengal, not Uttar Pradesh. I had sent a delegation of the Trinamool Congress to Hathras but we were not allowed an entry. But we are not stopping anyone from coming here.”
Banerjee alleged that such incidents of violence were a result of some conspiracy hatched to divert attention from issues of concern, such as the price hike of petrol and other commodities.
BJP president JP Nadda had yesterday constituted a five-member committee that included four MPs, to visit the site of the tragedy.
Court not impressed by Banerjee
The Calcutta High Court today directed CFSL Delhi to immediately collect necessary materials for forensic examination at Bogtui village in Bengal’s Birbhum district. A division bench headed by Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava, taking up suo motu cognition of the incident and a set of PILs, ordered that CCTVs be installed at the crime scene in the presence of District Judge Purba Bardhaman and recordings be done until further orders.
The court asked the state government to file a report in the case before it by 2 PM tomorrow when the matter will be taken up for hearing again.
Several pockets in Bengal with history of violence
The bench, also comprising justice R Bharadwaj, directed a team of Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in Delhi to visit the place of incident and collect samples for examination without any delay.
It asked the DGP to ensure the safety of witnesses, including that of a minor boy injured in the arson, in consultation with the district judge, Purba Bardhaman.
22 people arrested so far
At least 22 people have been arrested so far in connection with the violence, a senior police officer said today. Eleven people were arrested the same day for their involvement in the incident. “We are grilling them (those arrested) to find out if there were more people involved in the incident. Some accused seem to have fled the village. We are trying to trace them,” the officer said. He said that forensic experts were examining the ravaged houses to get an idea about the “nature of the mishap”.
The West Bengal government has constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by Additional Director General (CID) Gyanwant Singh, to probe the incident.
BJP MPs attack West Bengal govt on Birbhum violence in Lok Sabha
The BJP MPs from West Bengal have urged the Centre to use constitutional provisions to intervene in the state, alleging that law and order have collapsed under the rule of Trinamool Congress.
As soon as the Zero Hour began in Lok Sabha, several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs showed placards and raised slogans against the West Bengal government, led by chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Sukanta Majumdar, the state unit chief of the BJP, spoke on the matter later.
Rebutting the allegations, Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay said whatever had happened in Birbhum had nothing to do with any political fight and noted that around 20 people have been arrested by the state police in connection with the incident. He asked the BJP not to do politics over the incident and said his party has sought an appointment with Union home minister Amit Shah regarding the matter. Shah had met a delegation of BJP MPs from the state yesterday.