'Such incidents have happened in Gujarat & UP': Mamata defends violent Birbhum killings
As the Opposition in West Bengal targetted the Trinamool Congress-led government for the death of eight people who were burnt to death at Birbhum district, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today said that she was not justifying the killings but “such incidents have happened in Gujarat and Rajasthan too”.
She promised that strict action will be taken against all those responsible for the killings in Birbhum, irrespective of their (political) colours, said news reports.
On Tuesday, at least eight people were burnt alive after Bhadu Sheikh, a deputy Pradhan of Bhaguti village in Birhaum district and a TMC member, was killed after crude bombs were hurled at him on Monday (March 21) night. Hours after that incident, a mob locked people in their homes of the opposition gang in Bhaguti village and set them on fire. Seven of one family, including children, were found dead in the burnt homes.
As the violent incident triggered a war of words between Mamata and the West Bengal governor, Mamata said the government is “ours”, and that they were concerned about people in their state. “We would never want anyone to suffer. The Birbhum, Rampurhat incident is unfortunate. I have immediately dismissed the OC, SDPO. I will go to Rampurhat tomorrow,” Mamata told reporters.
She also taunted the BJP by saying that this is Bengal, not Uttar Pradesh and that she had sent a TMC delegation to Hathras but they were not allowed to enter. But the TMC was not stopping anyone from coming to Bengal, she added.
However, PTI reports said that a BJP delegation led by her bete-noire Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the Opposition in the state assembly, was stopped from visiting the spot in Birbhum district, as police had erected barricades just outside Bogtui village. Adhikari has alleged that these are attempts to shield the culprits by removing evidence.
‘State in the grip of culture of violence’, says governor Jagdeep Dhankar
The Birbhum killings have led to a massive political row with the Bengal BJP unit as well as the governor Jagdeep Dhankhar attacking the Mamata Banerjee government for allowing the state to lapse into chaos and lawlessness. Dhankhar had on Tuesday called the death of eight people “horrific” and an “arson orgy” and claimed that the state was in the grip of a culture of “violence and lawlessness” . He released a video yesterday saying human rights have been “decimated” and rule of law has “capsized” in the state.
Banerjee reacted sharply, saying that his comments were “uncalled for”.
In his three-page reply to Banerjee today, Dhankar slammed Mamata for saying there is a political conspiracy behind this violence. The Chief Minister had taken an “accusatory stance” at his “restrained reaction” to grisly carnage worst in the memory at Rampurhat, he wrote. Nothing can be more “farcical” than the claim that the state had always been peaceful, barring a few incidents in the past. Further, he said that a “politically-caged investigation” in the state inspired no confidence.
The Calcutta High Court intervenes
Horrifying videos showing charred bodies, including those of women and children, have surfaced on social media.
The Calcutta High Court today has decided to take up the case. A division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava took up a suo moto petition and a set of PILs and ordered the state government to immediately install CCTV cameras covering all angles of the scene of the crime in the presence of the district judge. It also ordered a Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) team to visit the site and collect required evidence for forensic analysis.
The state government has been asked to file a report by 2pm on Thursday when the matter will be taken up for hearing once again. The DGP has been asked to ensure the safety of the eye-witnesses, including a minor boy injured in the arson. Meanwhile, the west Bengal government has constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) helmed by an additional director general of police to probe the matter.
According to news reports, 22 people have been arrested so far and they are being interrogated to find out if more people are involved in the horrific incident. Some of the accused have even fled the village. The police are trying to find out the “nature of the mishap”.
BJP mounts attack on TMC government
The BJP has said this is not an isolated incident and accused the ruling Trinamool of orchestrating the killing of political opponents and has also demanded President’s rule in the state. BJP president JP Nadda has also constituted a five member committee, which includes four MPs to visit the site of the violence.
The party has demanded Mamata Banerjee’s resignation and an investigation by central agencies. As soon as the zero hour began in the Lok Sabha, many BJP MPs carrying placards raised slogans against the Mamata-led government.
Meanwhile, TMC leader Sudip Bandhyopadhyay defended the government stating that whatever happened in Birhaum had nothing to do with any political fight. He asked the BJP not to do politics over the incident and said that they have sought a meeting with home minister Amit Shah to discuss the issue.