CHIEF MINISTER-ELECT Mamata Banerjee held an emergency meeting on Tuesday with top state officials seeking an immediate end to the post-poll violence that has claimed at least 14 lives in two days. Sources said Banerjee instructed that the violence, involving the TMC and BJP, should end before she gets sworn in for a third time on Wednesday, and that if needed, arrests be made to restore calm.
The Centre has mounted pressure on the TMC government over the incidents, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling up Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and the Union Home Ministry seeking a report from its state counterpart. BJP president J P Nadda arrived in Bengal on Tuesday and met families of some of the victims.
A senior police official said, “Banerjee is very worried about the situation as she fears it will tarnish her win if it goes out of control. She shared some videos with the Chief Secretary and asked him to verify if these were fake and accordingly take action.”
While the BJP claimed Tuesday that six more of its workers had been killed in clashes, taking the toll to nine, the TMC said it had lost four men. A leader of the Indian Secular Front was killed on Monday.
Police said at least six people had been killed, including one in state capital Kolkata. However, it denied reports of rape and molestation of women in Nanoor, Birbhum. Birbhum SP N N Tripathi said, “Since yesterday news of rape of two women and molestation of some other women in Nanoor is being circulated on social media. Some partymen are forwarding it. We verified the information and also spoke to local BJP leaders. They are unaware of any such incident. I inform everyone that it’s fake news. We have been receiving a lot of complaints of small incidents. We are taking action.”
BJP candidate Swapan Dasgupta, who lost in the Assembly polls, had tweeted, “Alarming situation in Nanoor… marauding mobs seeking to take it out against BJP supporters. Reports of molestation or worse of women.”
On Tuesday, a black plastic sheet placed by the Kolkata police covered a makeshift BJP office at the end of a lane in Sitaltala, Narkeldanda, near which party worker Abhijit Sarkar, 35, was beaten to death, hours after the TMC soared ahead of the BJP in the May 2 counting. Abhijit’s mother Madhabi, 62, and brother Biswajit, 40, were also beaten up, while their house was ransacked, by unidentified men. The family said police were present but didn’t stop the men.
“I said my son will never support the BJP again. But they did not listen. They kept on beating him. All I could do was watch,” said Madhabi.
Another BJP worker, Haran Adhikari, 42, was killed in Pratapnagar village in Sonarpur Dakshin, South 24 Parganas. Adhikari’s family members said around 8 pm on Sunday, a group of miscreants barged into their house, dragged him out and thrashed him to death.
The BJP said attacks on its offices and houses of its workers had also left several injured.
The meeting held by Banerjee at her residence was attended by Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay, Home Secretary H K Dwivedi, DGP P Nirajnayan and Kolkata Police Commissioner Soumen Mitra. The CM-elect ordered increase of police surveillance and patrolling in areas that are seeing tension and demanded “strong action”.
Following Modi’s call, Dhankhar tweeted that the PM had “expressed his serious anguish and concern” at the “alarmingly worrisome law and order situation”.
TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh claimed that several of the incidents were a fallout of the intra-BJP rivalry, and that TMC workers had also been killed. “In some incidents it is old BJP versus new BJP,” he said, adding that while Modi had not found time to congratulate Banerjee, he had called up the Governor promptly on this matter.
According to the police report, one TMC supporter, Srinibas Ghosh, 54, was killed in Agardanga panchayat of Ketugram by alleged BJP supporters when going to the market.
Two TMC men, Saju Sheikh and Bibhash Pal, were reported killed in Jamalpur on Monday in clashes with the BJP. TMC East Burdwan spokesperson Prasenjit Das said, “They were killed brutally. BJP supporters surrounded them and beat them up. Three others were seriously injured.” Police claimed to have arrested 11 people for the incident on Tuesday.
The fourth TMC leader reported killed was Ganesh Malik, 60, of Samsabad village in Raina. His family claimed he was hit when trying to stop a clash between TMC and BJP supporters.
Biswajit, the brother of the BJP worker killed in Kolkata, claimed the family had long faced threats from the TMC. The brothers make clay idols and sell eggs for a living. “During the campaign we were threatened by the TMC. Around 1.30 pm on Sunday, some miscreants first lobbed crude bombs near our home, then ransacked the party office. Police were there but did nothing,” Biswajit said.
To save themselves, he added, Abhijit and he ran inside the house while Abhijit put up a video on Facebook Live saying he was in danger. “They beat up my mother and started to beat Abhijit up. They hit him with bricks and stones. He died in hospital,” Biswajit said.
Demanding a CBI probe, he claimed that despite videos showing the accused covered in green gulal (like TMC workers celebrating the party victory), “no one has been arrested by police yet”.
At Pratapnagar, Adhikari’s wife Swarnalata, 35, said the men who attacked him on May 2 evening came with rods and bamboo sticks. “He was sleeping… They were at least 40 in number, they ransacked our house and dragged my husband out. The beat him up continuously,” she said, asking why no one had been arrested yet. One of Adhikari’s five brothers, Basu, was injured in the attack, the family said, and was in hospital.
Another brother, Paran, said that all the people in their area are BJP supporters, and that the men had attacked several of them. “They ransacked most houses and beat up family members, including women.”
About 10 km away, in Gopalnagar area of Kheyada-2 gram panchayat, 32-year-old Shefali Das said she and her husband Ranjit feared being killed. “My husband was the BJP polling agent at Booth No. 26. Since then, TMC goons have been threatening him. On May 2 evening, they came to our house and ransacked every room. They stole cash and ornaments. They threatened that if we didn’t sell our land and leave within a week, they would kill us.”
Tanu Singh, 29, the wife of BJP supporter Rahul, said TMC men had also barged into their house. “They asked why we supported the BJP and threatened to kill my husband on sight. He hasn’t come home since May 2. I have a 5-year-old daughter, I do not know what will happen to us.”