Kolkata, March 22: At least 10 people died and several others were injured in violence that allegedly broke out after the murder of deputy Panchayat Pradhan at Baguti village in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, officials said on Tuesday.
While 11 people have been arrested, both police and the ruling Trinamool Congress have denied political motives behind the incident.
The state government has formed a special investigation team under ADG, CID, Gyanwant Singh, DIG, Western Range, Sanjay Singh, and DIG, CID, Operations, Miraj Khalid to probe the Baguti incident.
The events at Baguti in Rampurhat are unprecedented in the recent history of West Bengal, reliving the death of 14 people in Nandigram during the dying years of Left Front rule. The fire brigade which went to Baguti on Monday night recovered three bodies last night, while the remaining seven were found this morning.
“Horrifying violence and arson orgy. Rampurhat #Birbhum indicates the state is in the grip of violence and lawlessness. Eight lives lost. Have sought an urgent update on the incident from the Chief Secretary. My thoughts are with the families of the bereaved,” Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said in a tweet.
“In West Bengal, human rights are in decline and rule of law has capsized.”
Among the 10 dead, six were women and two were children, local leaders claimed.
Director-General of Police Manoj Malviya, however, said that no political motive behind the arson could be established yet.
“Seven from one family were killed. Another person succumbed to the hospital. So far, 11 arrests have been made. We haven’t been able to establish any political motive behind the incident. Personal enmity could be the probable cause. The SIT has been formed to probe whether villagers went about setting houses on fire after the murder (of panchayat leader Badu Sheikh),” Malviya said but admitted that the arson was committed within an hour of the Trinamool panchayat office-bearer’s murder.
Birbhum’s Superintendent of Police Nagendranath Tripathi said: “At this moment we cannot confirm whether the fire is linked to the murder of the Trinamool leader.”
The Trinamool district leadership also claimed the incidents of the panchayat leader’s killing and the arson weren’t linked.
“I have been told that there was a short circuit that led to an explosion in a television set from where the fire originated and spread to three-four houses. The fire brigade went there immediately. A police team has gone to the village, let them investigate,” said Anubrata Mondal, the Trinamool district President who has kept the district on a tight leash since his party came to power in 2011.
“I wasn’t there. Let the police find out. I have heard six bodies have been recovered,” he said.
Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari demanded central intervention over the incident, which the CPI-M has described as a massacre.
“Law & order in a rapid freefall in WB. Tension & terror has gripped Rampurhat area of Birbhum district, after a panchayat upoprodhan (deputy chief); Bhadu (sic) Sheikh was reportedly killed last evening in a bomb attack. The angry mob ransacked and set afire several houses afterward,” tweeted Adhikari.
“The nightlong barbarity has led to the death of at least 12 people; mostly women. Charred bodies are being recovered as of now. The administrative cover-up has already begun with attempts being made to lower the body count. Immediate central intervention required,” he added.