Thursday, May 15, 2008

Eight dead in Bengal’s killing fields

Statesman News Service
KOLKATA, May 14: Eight persons including an infant were killed and at least 45 others injured in separate incidents of violence since last night and during the second phase of panchayat polls in the state today.
While a series of clashes at Basanti in South 24-Parganas resulted in three Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) supporters being shot dead, allegedly by CPI-M supporters, and a CPI-M Krishak Sabha leader gunned down in retaliation, two CPI-M activists were killed when the crude bombs they were making exploded in the Lakshmikantapur area of Nadia last night.
In Howrah, a month-old baby who was in his mother's arms as she headed out to vote in Panchla died when he slipped out of her arms as she panicked in the melee that followed CPI-M and Congress supporters throwing bombs at one another while a PDS supporter was killed in poll-related violence in Domjur.
The worst of the poll-related violence was reported from Basanti in South 24-Parganas where supporters of the RSP clashed with CPI-M cadres as both partners in the Left Front resorted to muscle-flexing to influence voting in the villages there. Police said three RSP supporters, Ram Halder, Madhusudan Halder and Kanika Halder, were allegedly shot dead by CPI-M activists during clashes at Amjhara village. RSP supporters also alleged that CPI-M cadres had set some of their houses on fire.
The clashes peaked at around 1 p.m. when polling in booths 17 and 18 at Haldarpara village in the Taldih area had to be stopped; the presiding officer apparently had a fainting fit when CPI-M activists forced their way inside the polling booths and went on the rampage. As the day wore on and a huge police contingent was deployed at the troubled spots in Basanti, there were reports that RSP activists had snatched two rifles from policemen. The car of SUCI MLA, Mr Deboprasad Sarkar, was allegedly vandalised by CPI-M activists at Raghunathpur in Joynagar. An hour later, a CPI-M Krishak Sabha leader, Aashian Sheikh, was killed by RSP supporters in Kharimachan. A defensive Mr Raj Kanojia, IG (law and order), said political violence had erupted despite the presence of RAF and BSF
personnel in Basanti. Patrolling had begun yesterday itself, he said, asked to react to RSP Cabinet minister Mr Kshiti Goswami’s allegation that paramilitary forces were not taken to the sensitive areas by local police.
Two rifles snatched from policemen by RSP activists had been recovered, Mr Kanojia added. Meanwhile, the state home secretary, Mr AM Chakraborty said that the government will look into the allegations that BSF personnel remained inactive at Basanti and some policemen could not enter certain area of this locality.
In a separate poll-related incident in Howrah, police said one person, a PDS supporter was killed and seven others, including a police constable and homeguard, were injured at Najibpur village during violence in booths under Karola gram panchayat. Police said that the victim was carrying a crude bomb to use it in the clash and it burst prematurely and killed him.
CPI-M workers allegedly kicked a pregnant woman in the stomach when she tried to protest after they started beating up her husband, a Trinamul Congress polling agent at a booth in Mohishgoha village under Chandrapur gram panchayat, Amta-I block in Howrah. Villagers alleged that after shooting at a Trinamul Congress supporter, and injuring him, CPI-M workers did not allow them to take the injured duo to the hospital.
In Nadia, two persons, both CPI-M activists, Shital Chowdhury (30) and Bhanu Pramanik (40) were killed while preparing crude bombs at Lakshmikantapur area last night and another CPI-M activist was allegedly stabbed by some miscreants.
Though polling was largely peaceful in Hooghly, allegations of agents of Opposition parties being assaulted and forced to leave polling stations and booths being captured by CPI-M cadres came in from Jangipara, Arambag, Pursura and Tarakeswar areas today.
Violence may have singed Basanti with four dead, several injured and huts set on fire, yet Mr Raj Kanojia, IG (law and order) felt that the second day of the panchayat election have been more or less peaceful barring some stray incidents. Death toll rose to five after one person died when the bombs he was carrying burst on his person at Panchla in Howrah, the IG said as he disassociated the the death of two CPI-M activists in Nadia and the death of an infant in Howrah from poll related violence.