West Bengal sees spurt in political violence as COVID controls are eased

Apart from clashes between political parties, intra-party clashes too are making the state’s political atmosphere volatile

West Bengal, Election Violence
The BJP asked the Election Commission to retain Central forces in West Bengal. Photo: PTI File

Even as West Bengal is grappling with mounting coronavirus cases and deaths by the day during Unlock 2.0, the state is witnessing a renewed spurt in political violence between parties.

On Tuesday (July 7) night, BJP parliamentarian Arjun Singh’s house was attacked by miscreants allegedly backed by Trinamool Congress, hurling crude bombs. Locals residents claimed that at least 10 crude bombs were hurled. Without naming any political party, police said two groups attacked each other while Singh claimed that he was the target of the bombing by “goons” of the ruling party.

The latest incident was one such in a slew of political clashes that have rocked the state in the past one week or so.

Just a couple of days ago, on Sunday (July 5), Arjun Singh, the Barrackpore MP’s car was vandalized when a clash broke out between TMC and BJP workers  at Haldibari area of Halisahar town in North 24 Parganas district. During the clash, several bikes and the party office of Trinamool Congress was also set ablaze.

Engaging in a blame game, Singh claimed a group of miscreants led by TMC leader Subodh Adhikari launched the assault when he was holding a meeting at the residence of a party worker. Adhikari however said it was the BJP MP who had attacked him.

Adhikari switched over to the TMC from the BJP last year soon after Singh joined the saffron party leaving the Trinamool ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.Since then, their rivalry has triggered several clashes in Bhatpara, Halisahar and other areas of the district.

There was a brief lull in the clashes during the lockdown period. But as soon as the unlocking process started last month, the violence has returned not only in North 24 Parganas, but also in other parts of the state.

BJP state president Dilip Ghosh was attacked last Wednesday at Rajarhat in Kolkata when he had gone for a morning walk. His car was also damaged. BJP blamed local TMC leader Tapas Chatterjee for the attack. Chatterjee, however, denied the allegation.

In another incident last Saturday, two TMC workers were killed when party supporters clashed with members of Socialist Unity Centre of India (Communist) or SUCI in Mypeeth area of South 24 Parganas district. Several others were seriously injured in the clash.

On the same day two persons were killed and five others injured when a stockpile of crude bombs exploded at a house in Murshidabad district in the early hours of Saturday.

If it is not just clashes between political parties, intra-party clashes too are making the state’s political atmosphere volatile. Just after the lockdown was eased last month, a 60-year-old Trinamool supporter Amir Ali Sardar was shot dead near his home in Fulmalancha village on June 10 in what was described as a “supremacy war” between Trinamool Congress and Yuva Trinamool.

In another intra-party conflict, three ministers – Gautam Deb, Arup Biswas and Moloy Ghatak — had to face the ire of the party supporters and members in Jalpaiguri on Wednesday as several party members and supporters gheraoed the ministers accusing them of taking money in allotting block-level party posts.

West Bengal has a history of political violence dating back to the pre-Independence times. The violence intensifies every time a settled political regime is challenged by a resurgent opposition. The rise of the BJP as the main challenger to the TMC after it bagged 18 seats in the Lok Sabha elections, spiked the political turf war.

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