A 28-year-old man was killed after people linked to a ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader allegedly attacked an independent candidate’s rally in Bhangar ahead of the May 14 panchayat elections. Sources said Hafijur Rahaman was shot in his face while was leading Ishrafiq Mollah’s rally. He was rushed to a hospital, where he was declared dead.
Sources said Arabul Islam, the TMC leader and former MLA who is contesting against Mollah, in the panchayat polls, was arrested in connection with the murder. They said he was traced through his mobile tower location hours after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s issued orders for his arrest.
Police were yet to confirm Islam’s arrest till late on Friday night. Islam is the Bhangar II Panchayat Samiti chairman. He has been accused of being involved in violence in Bhangar earlier as well. Mamata had held a meeting with Islam a few months ago and instructed him to address the grievances in the area.
Mollah is contesting under the banner of Jomi, Jibika, Paribesh O Bastutantra Raksha Committee (Committee for Protection of Land, Livelihood, Environment and Ecosystem). The committee has been agitating against a power project in Bhangar since 2016 and fielded Mollah to prove its popularity. It blamed Islam’s men for the attack.
“Bullets were fired at us but we kept going. By the time we reached Natunhati Bazaar, Arabul’s men started throwing bombs at us and shooting… Arabul was present; so was his son and brother,’’ said the committee spokesman, Hassan Mirza.
He said the administration had been informed about the rally in advance. Earlier in the day, Mamata said she had instructed police to arrest whosoever was involved and asked authorities to restore peace. She told a news channel that Islam “had created some trouble” in Bhangar. “I have asked the police to arrest Arabul Islam.”
Alik Chakraborty, who has been leading the agitation, alleged the attacker had “clear support of the government and police have always been a spectator.”
Reports said Bhangar was on the boil while top police officers were rushed to the attack scene. CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty alleged the state’s law and order had collapsed. “I got calls from several villagers that the rally was attacked with bombs and bullets. I immediately messaged the DGP and home secretary to check. Within seconds, I received information that one person was shot dead.’’
The violence came a day after the Calcutta High Court warned officials that compensation would be recovered from their salaries if violence and loss of life or property are higher than the previous panchayat election.