The BJP on Saturday claimed two of its local leaders and a party worker had been killed and at least five workers seriously wounded in a violent clash with Trinamool Congress workers in Sandeshkhali in North 24-Parganas district, about 75 km southeast of Kolkata.
The Trinamool made a counter allegation that BJP workers had attacked and killed one of their workers.
Police confirmed only one death on Saturday evening, but said the number could rise. “One person is dead and several others are critically injured. More deaths are expected, unfortunately,” a local police officer told The Sunday Express.
Saturday’s clash is the first major incident of violence after the tense, bitterly contested Lok Sabha election, in which the BJP won 18 of the 42 seats in the state. Sandeshkhali is part of Basirhat Lok Sabha constituency, where the TMC’s Nusrat Jahan Ruhi defeated the BJP’s Sayantan Basu.
Sources said the clash erupted over the removal of the flag of one of the parties in the Najat area of Sandeshkhali. Bombs were hurled and shots were fired.
The TMC claimed BJP workers had stormed a booth-level meeting of its local party workers. “Suddenly 10-12 BJP workers barged into the meeting at Hatgachi. Our worker Kayum Ali Molla (26) was shot at point blank range. They then dragged him outside and stabbed him several times,” Jyotipriya Mullik, the TMC’s North 24-Paraganas district president, said.
Mullik alleged that three BJP MPs had visited Sandeshkhali and asked their workers to kill TMC people. “We don’t want anyone to die but we will not leave them like this. Enough is enough, we will fight it back,” Mullik said. Mullik also claimed that two TMC workers were missing, and he feared they had been killed as well.
The BJP, on the other hand, claimed Molla was hit by a bullet after TMC workers fired on BJP supporters.
Basu, who is also the BJP’s state general secretary, said: “The TMC worker wasn’t killed by the BJP. Rather, three of our workers — Pradip Mondal, Tapan Mondal, and Sukanto Mondal — have been killed in the firing. The area was tense since afternoon.”
BJP leaders said Pradip Mondal was the mandal president of the BJP’s SC morcha, Tapan Mondal was the pramukh of the Shakti Kendra, and Sukanta Mondal was a party karyakarta.
BJP leader Mukul Roy posted on Twitter: “3 BJP workers shot dead by TMC goons in Sandeshkhali, West Bengal. @mamataofficial [Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee] is directly responsible for unleashing violence against BJP workers. We will be reaching Union Home Minister Sh @amitshah ji [Home Minister Amit Shah] to apprise him of Sandeshkhali killings.”
A huge police force has been deployed in the area. Senior police officials have rushed to the spot.
A Block Development Officer was beaten up in his office on Thursday in Basirhat, allegedly by TMC supporters. The officer was admitted to Basirhat Super Specialty Hospital with injuries to his head and arms. His bodyguard and a few staffers at the BDO’s office, too, were beaten.
BJP MPs Saumitra Khan (Bishnupur), Subhas Sarkar (Bankura), and Shantanu Thakur (Bongaon) recently met BJP workers in Sandeshkali.
Also on Saturday, there was chaos at West Bengal BJP president and Medinipur MP Dilip Ghosh’s Abhinandan Yatra (victory rally) at Gangarampur in South Dinajpur district, after police tried to stop the procession by putting up barricades. In the ensuing clash between police and Ghosh’s supporters, stones flew, and police lobbed teargas shells.
“Several police, civic volunteers and others were injured in the clash. Ten people have been detained,” a senior police officer of the district said.
Ever since the election results were declared, BJP leaders have been organising victory rallies in various parts of the state. On Saturday, police had imposed Section 144; however, Ghosh and Balurghat MP Sukanta Majumdar continued to walk through Buniyadpur. When they reached Gangarampur, police tried to stop the procession using barricades.
Ghosh said, “What is the problem if we walk on the street? People have voted for us in huge numbers and we want to thank them, hence we have been doing programmes like this. Why are they imposing Section 144? Is this Kashmir? Police first stopped us, workers got angry, but taking advantage, a mob supported by the TMC hurled bombs and pelted stones to tarnish our image.”
TMC leader Arpita Ghosh, who lost the election in Balurghat, said: “BJP is trying to create law and order problem everywhere.” TMC general secretary Partha Chatterjee said: “What Dilip Ghosh is doing does not suit a leader of a political party in a democratic country. Such acts are done by anti-socials against administrative force and police. I strongly condemn this”.