TMC leader’s killing in WB precipitates arsons, deaths

Bogtui/Kolkata/New Delhi, March 22: Eight people, including three women and two children, were charred to death as nearly a dozen houses were set ablaze in a village in West Bengal’s Birbhum district early Tuesday in a suspected fallout of the murder of a ruling TMC panchayat official, provoking calls by the opposition BJP for imposition of President’s rule.
All eight were buried late Tuesday night in the presence of district officials. Sources said the adults among the dead had been identified as Mina Bibi, Noornihar Bibi, Rupali Bibi, Bani Sheikh, Mihir Sheikh and Neklal Sheik.
Altogether 11 people have been arrested so far, and the West Bengal government has constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Additional Director General (CID) Gyanwant Singh to probe the incident, state police chief Manoj Malviya said.
The residents of Bogtui village on the outskirts of Rampurhat town were jolted out of sleep by the deafening sounds of bomb explosions. They tried to douse the flames and called the police and fire brigade for help, as flames leapt from one thatched house to another, killing seven people including two children, while another person who was rescued died later in a hospital.
Najira Bibi, one of those who managed to survive, 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.” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar went for each other’s jugular over the incident, while the Union home ministry sought a detailed report from the state government.
A 9-member delegation of BJP MPs including the party’s national vice president Dilip Ghosh, Locket Chatterjee and Arjun Singh met Home Minister Amit Shah in the national capital and sought his intervention to punish the perpetrators of the incident.
BJP president JP Nadda constituted a five-member committee, which includes four MPs, to visit the site of the tragedy.
The members of the fact-finding committee are former Uttar Pradesh DGP Brij Lal, former Mumbai police commissioner Satya Pal Singh, former IPS officer K C Ramamurthy, West Bengal BJP chief Sukanta Majumdar — all MPs — and former IPS officer Bharati Ghosh.
The incident, West Bengal DGP Malviya said, occurred hours after the killing of TMC’s Barshal village panchayat’s deputy chief Bhadu Sheikh around 8.30 pm on Monday.
“The situation is now under control and a police picket has been established in the village since last night. We are investigating how the houses caught fire and whether the incident is related to the death of the TMC panchayat leader, which appears to be due to a deep-rooted personal enmity,” he said. “We are not confirming that the fire was because of retaliation for other incidents. It is being looked into. If it was, it was due to a deep-rooted personal enmity,” Malviya said.
The Sub-divisional Police Officer concerned an officer in-charge of Rampurhat police station have been removed from active policing duty, the DGP said.
The TMC despatched a three-member team of lawmakers led by minister Firhad Hakim to the spot to take stock of the situation. Hakim after visiting the spot said the slaying of the TMC leader and the firing of houses was a “deep rooted conspiracy”, which he had asked the state police to look into.
“Horrifying violence and arson orgy #Rampurhat #Birbhum indicates state is in grip of violence culture and lawlessness,” Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who has been locked in a protracted feud with the Mamata Banerjee government, tweeted, and sought an update from the chief secretary.
Banerjee hit right back, shooting off a letter to Dhankhar, saying “It pains me that you have chosen an unfortunate incident in Rampurhat to pass sweeping, uncalled for comments on law and order situation in the state. This incident is unfortunate.” (PTI)

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