Suspected communist activists killed a village deputy chief affiliated with the ruling Trinamool Congress at Rampurhat in West Bengal, following which many houses in the locality were set on fire and eight people burnt to death. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has called for a report on the incident, asking for the report in 72 hours. A central delegation led by the joint secretary of the home ministry will visit the state after scrutinising the report.
Rampurhat is a city and municipality in District Birbhum in West Bengal that houses the headquarters of the Rampurhat subdivision.
This is yet another instance of collapsing law-and-order in West Bengal, where the police, infamous in the state for acting as an extension office of the ruling party since the 1970s, are on the dock.
Reacting to the violence, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal Suvendu Adhikary tweeted: “Law & order in a rapid freefall in WB.”
“Tension & terror has gripped Rampurhat area of Birbhum district, after a panchayat upoprodhan (deputy chief); Bhadu Sheik was reportedly killed last evening in a bomb attack,” the LoP wrote.
“Angry mob ransacked and set afire several houses afterwards,” Adhikari wrote and followed it with two more tweets, finally drawing the attention of the union home minister and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar.
The governor tweeted: “Horrifying violence and arson orgy (at) Rampurhat, Birbhum, indicates (the) state is in grip of violence culture and lawlessness. Already eight lives lost.”
“Have sought (an) urgent update on the incident from (the) chief secretary,” the governor wrote.
“My thoughts are with the families of the bereaved,” he prayed.
Adhikari called on the governor, urging him to recommend the invocation of Article 355 or Article 356. Bangla news mediums cited the LoP to say that an exasperated Adhikari told Dhankhar that the latter had done enough activism on social media and given sound bites to the media, and that it was time for more concrete action.
Adhikari asked Dhankhar if the NIA could be pressed into the investigation. Pointing out that a Muslim had been killed in the incident, he said the law provides for invocation of the Special Act in such cases.
Mohammed Salim of the CPI(M) has termed the case of arson as “genocide”, which the state home department has assured it will look into. The rivals of the Trinamool Congress leader are communist activists, locals say.
Bhadu Sheikh, the Rampurhat Trinamool Congress leader, was murdered at 8 PM last night near the Bogtui intersection. At the Bogatui junction adjacent to the national highway, Sheikh was having tea at a tea shop where he was killed in a bomb attack.
Police visited the spot on getting information about the killing of the Trinamool Congress strongman but, for reasons known best to the department, did not visit the victim’s village.
Then, an hour-and-a-half after the murder, the village was set on fire. Locals in the Bogtui hamlet are angry that the police made no contingency plan to check this anticipated vendetta politics of the ruling party.
According to sources in the West Bengal home ministry, the police could not enter the village as the situation was tense, but not all in the state ministry are convinced.
Incidentally, at the time of the arson attack, the Birbhum district administration had informed the state home ministry that they had evacuated the crowd from the tension-gripped village after the murder of the Trinamool Congress leader. The police are unable to respond to their bosses who have given themselves a clean chit.
Village Bogtui had witnessed a clash between the village deputy chief’s men and his rivals a year ago. Sheikh’s grandfather was killed in the incident of political violence. Some hoodlums from the nearby village of Paschimpara were suspects in the case, which makes it amply clear that the police were aware of the criminal hotspot that the area has been,
“Eight people were killed in the incident. Seven dead bodies were recovered from a single house. One among the three injured died today morning at the hospital,” said DGP Manoj Malviya. He said a special investigating team (SIT) had been formed to probe the role of the officer in charge and the SDPO of the area.