Kolkata: Two days after at least eight people were killed in a presumed incident of arson at Bogtui village in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday visited the spot where the violence occurred and directed the police to take stringent action against the culprits.
Banerjee, who was accompanied by top police officers and controversial Trinamool Congress (TMC) Birbhum district president Anubrata Mondal, interacted with family members of those killed. The Chief Minister has offered an ex gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh to each family for repairing damaged houses, Rs 5 lakh each and government jobs to the kin of the dead, and Rs 50,000 each to all injured. “I know money and government jobs can’t be compensation. But one needs to live, for which I am offering the money,” she said.
Though Mondal had initially dismissed the incident as a fire owing to a “short circuit”, Banerjee on Thursday acknowledged the mass killing, directing the police to take stringent action. “I had no idea that such inhuman incidents could happen in the modern world… I will direct the police to file cases in such a way that no culprit is spared. I don’t want to hear anything (from the police). I want such punishment that no one ever resorts to such things not just here, but anywhere,” said the Chief Minister.
On Monday night, Bhadu Sheikh, deputy chief of the TMC-controlled Barshal village panchayat, was killed after five unidentified miscreants hurled crude bombs at him at Bogtui village in Rampurhat. After the TMC leader’s death was confirmed by a local hospital, violence erupted at Bogtui village and multiple homes in the area were allegedly ransacked and set on fire.
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A state Fire and Emergency Services official said three charred bodies had been recovered late on Monday night from a house. On Tuesday morning, after dousing the blaze, firemen recovered seven more charred bodies from a burned house. Sources at the local hospital said children and women were among the victims.
A senior official of West Bengal Police said the state’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) will investigate the matter while a three-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) led by ADG CID Gyanwant Singh has already been formed.
After visiting the scene, Birbhum SP Nagendranath Tripathi has said a forensic team will investigate the cause behind the house fire, while 20 people have been arrested so far. A senior state police official said that the officer-in-charge (OC) of the local police station and the local SDPO have been ‘closed’ from their duties.
Opposition lashes out at TMC govt
Slamming the government, West Bengal Leader of Opposition (LoP) Suvendu Adhikari of the BJP has sought intervention from the Central government. Adhikari has also demanded President’s Rule in the state, which has been controlled by the TMC since 2011.
Condemning the alleged police inaction in the entire incident, CPI(M) state secretary Mohammed Salim said, “It is clear cut violence. A massacre. The police are in collusion (with TMC goons). In Birbhum, all attacks on the Opposition (in the past) took place under the supervision of the police.”
Pledging to draw the President’s attention to the incident, Congress Lok Sabha MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury slammed the TMC government saying, “TMC will collapse in the fire which was lit by Mamata Banerjee herself. The state is moving towards President’s rule.”
India Blooms News Service