In a ghastly tragedy eight persons including two children were charred to death in a village near Rampurhat in Birbhum district, soon after the murder of a local leader of the ruling Trinamool Congress party.
Some ten houses in Bogtui village on the outskirts of Rampurhat town were set on fire by unknown miscreants who threw bombs as families were in deep slumber. Local villagers who tried to douse flames and called the police and fire brigade to help, watched as mute spectators as flames engulfed a house killing seven including two children, while another person who was rescued died later in a hospital. Najira Bibi, one of those who escaped the firing of homes with thatched roofs told PTI from her hospital bed at Rampurhat, “We were sleeping and suddenly heard the sound of bombs … the miscreants set our houses on fire. I managed to escape but don’t know what happened to others in the family.” The attack which came within hours of the killing of the deputy panchayat chief of Bogtui village, Bhadu Sheikh on Monday night leading to suspicion that this was a revenge attack also set off a political storm with opposition parties describing it as an internecine in-fighting within the Trinamool Congress party.
Governor Jagdeep Dhankar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee engaged in a war of words over the tragedy, with Dhankar tweeting that the incident indicated West Bengal was gripped by a culture of “violence and lawlessness”, eliciting a sharp retort from the chief minister who told him through a letter that his “utterances and statements have political overtones which provide support to other political parties to browbeat the government.” The Union Home Ministry also swung into the picture after a delegation of BJP MPs from the state met home minister Amit Shah, and sought a report from the West Bengal government on the incident.
Bengal’s top cop, DGP Manoj Malaviya told reporters, “The situation is now under control, and a police picket was posted in the village. We are investigating how the houses caught fire and whether the incident is related to the death of the panchayat deputy chief of neighbouring Barshal village.
He added, ”We are not confirming that the fire was because of retaliation of other incidents. It is being looked into. If it was, it was due to a deep-rooted personal enmity.” Locals told PTI they suspected enmity between rival groups over illegal sand mining could be behind the tragedy. Many families moved out temporarily from the village in the aftermath of the bombing and burning down of houses. The state government announced formation of a three-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by ADG (CID) Gyanwant Singh to probe the matter. However, leader of the opposition Suvendu Adhikari demanded imposition of President’s Rule in the state.
”The lawless situation in the state proves imposition of President’s Rule is the only way to protect the state. Our delegation will visit the area tomorrow,” he said alleging that the TMC is now killing its own people.
State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury too claimed the situation warranted imposition of Article 355 of the Constitution.
BJP legislators also staged a walk-out of the West Bengal Assembly on Tuesday demanding Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee make a statement on the floor of the House on the incident.
BJP president J P Nadda on Tuesday also formed a five-member committee, which includes four MPs, to visit the site of the fire tragedy to probe the matter.
CPI(M) state secretary Mohammed Salim said that the Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee should take responsibility for the deaths.
”The incident at Bogtui village results from the violence unleashed by the ruling party. Now they are killing each other,” Salim said at the party headquarters here.
TMC however, dismissed charges that the party was in anyway involved in the tragedy, with its spokesperson Kunal Ghosh stating: ”We condemn the deaths that seem to have happened due to an accidental fire. It was our party leader who was killed last night. The state government has formed an SIT to investigate the matter.” The TMC also sent a team of three MLAs headed by minister Firhad Hakim to the village to assess the situation.