Kolkata: Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee met the family of eight people killed in violence in Birbhum district this week and announced ₹5 lakh compensation to each. She also announced an additional ₹50,000 for families who lost children – two of the eight who died were children – and said an extra ₹2 lakh would be given to each household to rebuild homes burnt down in the incident. One member of each family will also get a job, she said.
The chief minister – under fire from the opposition BJP and Congress and facing demands to resign – also said strict action would be taken against senior police officers in the area. “There is a big conspiracy. Police will do impartial investigation. Take stringent actions,” she said.
She also announced a special state-wide drive to recover illegal arms and ammunition.
The Bengal government is also installing CCTV cameras in the area, news agency ANI reported, in line with a Calcutta High Court order on March 23.
Eight people were burnt to death in Rampurhat early Tuesday morning after several houses were set on fire. This was after the killing of Bhadu Sheikh, a resident of Bogtui village and a local Trinamool leader. Residents said the violence was likely the result of an old rivalry between two factions of the Trinamool Congress.
Police have arrested 23 people so far; one of those arrested was held in connection with the bomb attack that killed Sheikh, while the rest have been held over the fires and deaths. Two cases have been filed and a special team is leading investigations, police said.
Prime minister Narendra Modi tweeted condolences to those killed and assured the state of support from the centre. However, in the relentless war of words between the BJP and the Trinamool, the prime minister’s tweet had a sting; he said he expected ‘strict action against culprits… (and) those who encourage such criminals should not be forgiven too’.
The violence and the deaths have sparked a political blame-game in the state, with the opposition BJP demanding the chief minister resign and President’s Rule be imposed. Banerjee hit back yesterday at a governemnt event in the capital, saying: “We are running the government. Why would we want murder, bloodshed and a bomb blast? Such things are done by those not in power to harass the government and malign us.”
She also hinted at an opposition party’s hand behind the gruesome events.
“I will go there tomorrow (March 24). I planned to go there today (March 23). I was ready. But some political parties are going there and having sweets. I don’t want to go there when they (opposition parties) are there. I don’t want to quarrel with them unnecessarily,” she said.
A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) delegation led by leader of opposition (and one-time confidante of Mamata Banerjee before he crossed the aisle) Suvendu Adhikari visited the area yesterday. He has called for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation or National Investigation Agency.
The Congress’ state chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury writing to President Ram Nath Kovind to impose President’s Rule. The BJP’s state unit has made a similar demand.
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