AN ALLEGED clash between two syndicates, reportedly backed by factions within the ruling Trinamool Congress, saw policemen being “ambushed” in Lake Town in Dum Dum, with at least seven of them sustaining injuries and three police vehicles torched on Monday night. It was not until Tuesday evening that a police case was “officially registered” in the matter. Trinamool, however, has denied the allegations.
The syndicate is an euphemism for an extortion racket in areas witnessing a realty boom, wherein cartels — comprising unemployed youths and mostly backed by the ruling party — use clout and the threat of violence to force contractors into buying inferior building materials from them at a premium.
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The two syndicates in question are allegedly backed by Trinamool MLA from Dum Dum Sujeet Bose, and party MLA from Rajarhat in Bidhannagar, Sabyasachi Dutta. Recently, Dutta was purportedly seen on a sting talking about his association with the Rajarhat syndicate. In his rallies during the elections, he had spoken about how “syndicates give jobs to the poor”. Despite repeated attempts, Bose and Dutta could not be contacted for comments.
Police, meanwhile, claimed that on Monday night, they had gone to “resolve a small argument” at a wedding in Lake Town when they “were ambushed by an angry mob”.
Lake Town Officer-in-Charge Triguna Roy, who was injured in the violence, said: “We were called in to resolve a small argument that had broken out at a wedding. After resolving the matter, we were leaving and were suddenly attacked. We were pinned down and had to call in reinforcements. Our vehicles were damaged and our men injured.”
Asked why no arrests have been made yet, he added: “It’s a sensitive matter. We have no idea why we were attacked.”
A senior police officer, however, said: “It appears that after Assembly polls on April 25, violence has suddenly peaked. The Rajarhat faction believes that Bose might lose the elections and is trying to move in on the prize — Lake Town. Bose has worked hard on Lake Town’s beautification and this has led to rise in prices in the area. If Bose wins, the Rajarhat syndicate plans to move in.”
He added: “Right now, the two syndicates are in a vulnerable position… particularly, if one MLA wins and the other loses… Dutta seems to want to take over the Dum Dum syndicate, before the new MLA gets a chance to capture it.”
Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation deputy mayor and Trinamool leader Tapas Chatterjee — also known as the ‘Robin Hood of Rajarhat’, said: “This incident neither happened in the Bidhannagar municipal area nor is it my area of operation.” The former chairman of Rajarhat-Gopalpur Municipality, Chatterjee is a close aide of Dutta and was instrumental in the carving out of New Town in the south-eastern fringe of Kolkata.
A member of the Rajarhat syndicate, who didn’t wish to be named, reiterated that Monday’s violence is linked not only to a potential electoral loss but also the exponential growth in valuation of Lake Town. “Under Bose’s tenure as MLA, a number of canals and ponds have been filled up and converted into parking lots and parks. Not only has this driven up prices, but also made Lake Town a very posh area. Prices have tripled and even quadrupled,” he said.
When contacted, a close aide of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said: “The party line on the matter is clear. I don’t have any information about this particular case, but Trinamool will not tolerate any further instances of the party being linked to syndicate mafia. Already, senior leaders have spoken to Mamata Banerjee regarding this and we believe that she will issue very clear and strict orders to all party personnel post election results.”