Rampurhat/Kolkata: Two days after seven people were killed in violence in West Bengal’s Bagtui village, 55 BJP MLAs — led by leader of opposition in West Bengal assembly Suvendu Adhikari and accompanied by party MP Arjun Singh — reached the village in the state’s Birbhum district Wednesday. The BJP leaders, who reached Bagtui around 5pm, held placards that read “We want justice in Rampurhat mass murder”, and raised slogans of “Bharat Mata ki jai” in an open field near the houses that been allegedly torched in the violence.
Bagtui is situated in the Rampurhat I tehsil.
While police have been tight-lipped so far about what triggered Monday’s incident, villagers had earlier told ThePrint that the chain of events started Monday evening, when local Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader and reputed strongman Bhadu Sheikh was allegedly attacked with crude bombs and bullets, as he sat sipping tea by the side of a road leading to his brick house.
Sheikh, the deputy pradhan of Barashal gram panchayat, was killed in the alleged attack. Within an hour, soon after the police patrol van had left, an alleged carnage began, with a mob torching down four houses, villagers had claimed.
“We are hopeful the Court will allow a CBI and NIA probe into this incident. Villagers don’t want the state police here. This entire village had voted for Mamata Banerjee (for the Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, in the 2021 assembly election), imagine,” Adhikari told the gathered media.
The BJP has also formed a five-member fact finding team, which will submit their report to party chief J.P. Nadda, after visiting the spot.
The Bagtui violence was also brought up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while virtually inaugurating the Biplobi Bharat Gallery — dedicated to Indian revolutionaries — at Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial Wednesday. The PM expressed his condolences for those who had lost their near and dear ones in the violence and said, “Whatever help is needed to book the culprits, I assure all possible help from the Centre to state”.
Meanwhile, as the opposition attack intensified, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee touched upon previous incidents of violence in other states, while addressing a students’ programme in Kolkata Wednesday.
“I had also sent my MPs to Hathras, Unnao (both in UP, where cases of alleged rape had grabbed national attention) and Assam during NRC (violence triggered by protest against the National Register of Citizens), but we were blocked. We aren’t like them. They instigate the violence and then they go to court or sit on television screens,” Banerjee said, attacking the BJP.
The CM is expected to visit Bagtui Thursday, and has also set up a three-member team to probe the incident.
‘Not an accident, this is genocide’
As the political war of words escalated between the TMC and the BJP, CPI-M leader and newly-appointed State General Secretary of the party’s West Bengal unit, Mohammed Salim, visited Bagtui Wednesday, riding pillion on a motorbike.
“This is not an accident, this is genocide. There are so many police deployed here that the villagers have fled. The deputy pradhan used to collect money for the police that in turn goes to Kalighat (residence of Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek Banerjee),” alleged Salim, after visiting one of the houses that had been allegedly set ablaze during Monday’s violence.
As Salim stepped into the house, police personnel deployed in the area rushed in and asked him to step out, as it was a crime spot which was yet to be scanned by the forensic team. Later, CPI-M leaders Biman Bose and Rabin Deb too made separate visits to the village.
While no Congress leader has visited Bagtui yet, MP and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, wrote to President Kovind Wednesday, seeking the imposition of Article 355 in West Bengal — an emergency provision by which the Centre can intervene and protect a state against external aggression or internal disturbance. In the letter submitted to the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Chowdhury claimed “law and order has broken down in West Bengal as 26 political murders have taken place in the last month itself”. ThePrint has a copy of the letter.
Last year, the West Bengal government had drawn flak from the opposition over cases of alleged violence in the state following the TMC’s victory in last year’s election. The Calcutta High Court had directed a court-monitored CBI investigation into the incident, following the submission of a report by a fact-finding team of the National Human Rights Commission. The Mamata Banerjee government had moved the Supreme Court against the High Court order.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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