A day after two workers of the BJP and one of TMC were killed and another BJP worker went missing, charges flew thick and fast as a pall of gloom descended on two villages under Basirhat subdivision in North 24 Parganas.
At Bangipara village under Sandeshkhali I block, wails of women rang out in the congested locality of single-storey houses. The dead and missing workers of the BJP, related to each other, belonged to the same area. Thirty-five-year-old Padma Mondal, wife of BJP worker Pradip Mondal who was shot dead Saturday, was inconsolable.
BJP vs TMC just got more intense
The Saturday incident has sharply escalated the situation on the ground in West Bengal where TMC and BJP have been at loggerheads. That the Home Ministry, now headed by Amit Shah, has stepped in, calling it “a failure of the law enforcement machinery”, has not gone down well in Kolkata. A new battle is likely.
Mondal had gone to his in-laws’ house for Jamai Shasthi but returned home after receiving a call that some customers had turned up at his garments shop to buy clothes. “That was a trap set by local TMC men to attack my husband. As soon as he returned, the TMC men came, who on motorbikes, ransacked his shop. As my husband stepped out of the house, they opened fire at him. They chased him to the fields and shot him dead there,” Padma told The Indian Express.
Forty-year-old Mondal had been an active BJP worker in the area. He ran a garments shop and owned a hatchery. He is survived by his mother, wife, two children and two brothers.
Read | Bengal: Stopped from taking bodies of workers to party office, BJP calls for 12-hour bandh tomorrow
According to his younger brother Sandip Mondal, local TMC workers held a booth-level meeting at Nolkora Junior Basic Primary School, some 200 metres from their house, around 3 pm Saturday and began putting up party flags in the area.
“They had come here with the intention to attack us as we are supporters of the BJP. All our relatives here support the BJP and they have been planning the attack ever since BJP received a lead of around 150 votes from booth number 56 here. The entire incident took place in the presence of police officers,” he Sandip alleged.
He said he was lucky to survive since he too was at his in-laws in Bongaon on Jamai Shasthi. He claimed that the TMC chose Jamai Shasthi to target them as most men in the area were away.
BJP supporter Sukanta Mondal (23) too was killed in the violence. Sukanta’s younger sister Biva Mondal (19) demanded exemplary punishment for the culprits. “My brother dealt in fish and was the only earning member of the family. When TMC men started shooting, my brother went out to help others. But he ran to the fields nearby as he too was chased. The miscreants had only one agenda: attack everyone living in this area. Later, we found my brother’s body in the field. We want justice and immediate arrest of the culprits,” she said. Sukanta leaves behind his sister and mother Kinu Mondal.
Adjacent to their house lives Debdas Mondal (34) who has been missing since the clash. “I pleaded with my husband and asked him not to go out of the house as shots were being fired. But he insisted and went after others. We later saw that he was being attacked in the field. He was put in a sack and was carried away,” claimed Supriya Mondal, wife of Debdas. His father, Basudeb Mondal (64), was also attacked but survived.
Also read | 3 workers killed in clash with TMC: BJP
About 7 km away, at Rajbari Purbapara village, the family members of TMC worker Kaim Mollah who was killed in the Saturday clash, are speechless. Kaim’s father Liyakat Ali Mollah admitted that his son had gone to attend the booth committee meeting at Bangipara. “He was putting up party flags at Bangipara when Pradip Mondal shot him from his shop. Later, they attacked him with a sharp weapon,” Liyakat alleged. His son got married only five months ago and his wife Zebunnissa fainted when she heard about her husband’s death.
A TMC delegation led by senior leaders Jyotipriya Mullick, Tapas Roy, Madan Mitra, Sujit Bose and Nirmal Ghosh visited Kaim’s house and blamed the BJP for the clash. “The BJP is in a hurry to come to power here by indulging in violence. They want to disturb peace in the state. We will not tolerate this relentless violence and the law will take its own course,” Tapas Roy said. Sheikh Shahjahan, who the BJP blames for the attack, was seen with the TMC leaders during their visit.
Meanwhile, a BJP delegation went to Basirhat Hospital to bring the bodies to Kolkata to hold their final rites. However, police stopped their convoy twice at Malancha and Minakhan areas and asked them to take the bodies to their village. The BJP delegation began a protest after being stopped by police and decided to cremate the bodies on Basanti Highway. But as family members of the victims became unwell, the party decided to withdraw the protest.
The BJP has called a 12-hour bandh in Basirhat sub-division Monday and announced that it will observe a black day across the state.
“We will also take out a protest rally from state party headquarters in Kolkata to Lalbazar (city police headquarters) on June 12. We will also take legal action on this incident,” said BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha. Later, the bodies were taken to their village to hold the last rites.
West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh, party MP Locket Chatterjee and others were part of the BJP delegation.