On a day Trinamool Congress leader Arabul Islam was sent to 10-day police custody in connection with the killing of a supporter of an Independent candidate in West Bengal’s panchayat polls, villagers on Saturday said homemade bombs were recovered from his house in Bhangar, in 24 Parganas South district.
Islam, a district-level TMC leader and a former MLA, was arrested on Friday night on the orders of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. He was produced before Baruipur sub-divisional magistrate’s court on Saturday and remanded in police custody till May 22.
He is accused in the killing of Hafizul Mollah, who was shot on chest on Friday when he, along with other supporters of Independent candidate, was taking part in a procession from Kashipur to Machibhanga in Bhangar. The police are now on the lookout for the TMC leader’s son and brother for their alleged involvement in the incident, a senior officer was quoted by PTI.
As 28-year-old Hafizul’s body arrived in Bhangar’s Natunhati Bazaar Chowk on Saturday evening, someone threw water on small balls found in the nearby compound of Arabul Islam. The balls were homemade bombs and the water, villagers hoped, would keep them from exploding.
Deaths and bombs are nothing new to the region, which has since 2016 seen an agitation against the state government’s move to acquire land for a power project. At Natunhati Bazaar Chowk, 35-year-old Fatema Bibi and her husband had come to pay tribute to Mollah. They had been hiding for the last few weeks. Bibi is a candidate for Ghazipur gram panchayat polls, which, she said, makes her a target for the TMC.
“The TMC had put a lot of pressure on me to withdraw once my nominations had been accepted. They offered to build me a house, said they would give me money,” she alleged. But when she didn’t, she claimed Arabul’s men picked up her two sons. “They were beaten and then made to call me at gunpoint. They said I needed to step down immediately,” she claimed. She said her sons were let go only after much pressure on Islam through authorities.
At Tona Bakultala village, 10 km from Natunhati Bazaar Chowk, Shukur Khan, 59, was livid at his son Imtiazul Khan, who had returned after two weeks in Kolkata. Imtiazul was one of the nine who filed their nominations through WhatsApp for a seat to Poliyahat 2 gram panchayat, and although Supreme Court subsequently stayed it, Shukur, who does not understand the details, felt his son should have stayed put in the village and fought it out.
(with PTI inputs)
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