Bhatpara (West Bengal): Two people, including a 17-year-old, were killed and six others injured, four of them critically, as the troubled Bhatpara area in Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district witnessed clashes between Trinamool and BJP supporters. In another incident, many others were injured when clashes broke out after a three-member BJP central delegation left the area after their fact-finding mission. As the delegation left, two groups, one led by the BJP and other by TMC, engaged in pitched battle as both sides hurled countrymade bombs and stones at each otherd.
The death toll in Bhatpara violence has now gone up to five since May 23, the day Lok Sabha poll results were announced and when Trinamool rebel Arjun Singh was declared the winner in a fiercely contested fight for the Barrackpore Lok Sabha seat. Police had to fire in the air to bring the situation under control. The state government has clamped prohibitory orders and Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee gave cops a 72-hour deadline to restore normalcy. The latest round of violence came on a day when the state director general of police was supposed to inaugurate a new police station in Bhatpara. The violence started about 100 metres from the police station that the DGP was supposed to inaugurate. He was on his way to Bhatpara for the ceremony but turned back after reports of violence brokeout. He later returned to the spot but to probe the violence.
Two bombs fell near the gate of Reliance Jute Mill, sparking panic among workers who had gathered for their morning shift. The blasts led to widespread panic as labourers scampered to safety. But in a few minutes, a crowd of several hundred gathered at Bhatpara crossing. They chased away the miscreants. But the miscreants returned later and a fresh round of violence started.
A pani puri seller who was returning home, was hit by a stray bullet. Another bullet hit a 49-year-old in the abdomen. Both died almost immediately at the spot. There were contradictory accounts of what led to the two deaths. The victims’ kin alleged the deaths were caused by police firing. Some locals claimed they saw armed miscreants roaming around with pistols. A CCTV grab, showing masked men roaming around the area with pistols, corroborated this account. Police, however, said they opened fire in the air in self-defence. Six policemen were injured.
The Trinamool Congress and the BJP blamed each other for the clashes, which is seen as an attempt to establish dominance in Bhatpara, which comes under the Barrackpore Lok Sabha constituency. Five people have been arrested in connection with the clash, police said. The state government has removed Barrackpore Police Commissioner Tanmay Ray Chaudhuri and appointed Manoj Kumar Verma in his place, who was the IGP of Darjeeling. Several country-made bombs and revolvers had been recovered from the area, police said.