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Birbhum Unrest News Updates: 8 Charred to Death, Police Arrest 11; 5-Member BJP Team to Visit Rampurhat

Blaze engulfed around 10-12 houses last night after a mob allegedly set houses on fire and killed a TMC leader in Birbhum. (ANI)

Blaze engulfed around 10-12 houses last night after a mob allegedly set houses on fire and killed a TMC leader in Birbhum. (ANI)

The TMC panchayat deputy chief's murder has triggered massive uproar in the village with angry mob setting afire several houses, leading to the death of at least eight people, police have confirmed

Tension has gripped Rampurhat area of West Bengal’s Birbhum district after a panchayat upoprodhan (deputy chief) was reportedly killed in a bomb attack on Monday evening. The murder of the panchayat deputy chief, belonging to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), has triggered massive uproar in the village with angry mob ransacking and setting afire several houses, leading to the death of at least eight people, police have confirmed.

DGP Manoj Malaviya told reporters in Kolkata that eleven people have been arrested in connection with the incident, adding that TMC leader Bhadu Sheikh was murdered at around 8.30 pm on Monday. Witnesses told the police that Sheik, who was the deputy chief of the TMC-controlled Barshal village panchayat, was attacked by four men on motorcycles who had their faces covered.

While sources said that the incident was alleged to be a result of fallout of rivalry between two factions of the ruling party, Bhadu Sheikh’s family said his killing is linked to the murder of his father in January last year, accusing the police of inaction in the case.

Sheikh was taken to the Rampurhat government hospital but was declared brought dead. The body was brought to his native Bagtui village in Rampurhat on Tuesday.

ALSO READ: Recovery of Charred Bodies: Bengal BJP MLAs Demand CM’s Statement, Walk Out of Assembly

Here are the top updates:

Amit Shah Seeks Report, 5-member BJP Team to Visit Rampurhat

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has sought a report on the violence in the next 72 hours and also decided to send a central fact-finding team under the leadership of a joint secretary-ranked officer.

Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury has welcomed the Centre’s decision to send a team to Bengal in the wake of the violence and he also plans to meet the President in this regard.

Meanwhile, at the state assembly, the TMC-led government called the incident a larger political conspiracy, adding that it’s unfortunate. The BJP has submitted a memorandum to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar over the violence.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on the other hand, has written to Governor Dhankhar, urging him to refrain from making sweeping statements over the violence. “Your statements have political overtones supporting other political parties to browbeat Bengal government,” the CM said.

BJP National President JP Nadda, meanwhile, condemned the violence, saying: “Shocked by the death of 10 innocent people in the violence that took place at Rampurhat in Birbhum district of West Bengal. This incident proves that the Mamata government has no control over law and order. I condemn this incident in the strongest possible words. Also, demand strict action against the culprits.”

FIR filed

An FIR in connection with the murder of TMC panchayat deputy chief Bhadu Sheikh has been registered.

Addressing a press briefing over the incident, DGP Manoj Malviya confirmed that the fire incident did take place on Monday evening after the TMC leader was murdered, but also added that it is yet to be ascertained whether the houses were set afire in retaliation to the killing of the leader.

Malviya informed that 11 people have been arrested so far in connection with the incident.

Malviya said that sometime after the murder of the panchayat deputy chief, 7-8 small houses, tightly bound to each other, were found to be on fire.

“There is tension in the area. Seven bodies were recovered from the house of one Sanju Seikh, while one person succumbed to injuries later,” Malviya said and added that action has been taken against the officer-in-charge (OC) sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) of Rampurhat.

TMC refutes reports of fallout rivalry between party factions

TMC General Secretary Kunal Ghosh tweeted saying that the incident has nothing to do with politics.

“Deaths of the locals in fire incident is sad. But this incident has no political connection. This is a local village dispute. The panchayat deputy chief who was murdered was a well-known person and his death has angered the villagers, leading to the violent protest. The fire incident took place at night but cops and fire brigade took immediate action,” Kunal Ghosh said in a tweet in Bengali.

Ghosh went on to add that the government has expedited the probe and that the action has been taken against the officer-in-charge (OC) sub-divisional police officer (SDPO), adding that the police investigation will find out whether it was a pre-planned murder.

DGP Manoj Malviya also said that prima facie it does not look like an incident of political violence. “It seems, as of now, to be a result of an old personal animosity,” the DGP said.

SIT formed to probe incident; TMC delegation heads to Rampurhat

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held an urgent meeting over the incident and instructed the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for the probe.

The SIT includes West Bengal top cop Gyanwant Singh, DIG (Operations) CID Meeraj Khalid, ADG Western Zone Sanjay Singh and IG, Burdwan Range BL Meena.

Earlier, a team of CID from Kolkata headed towards the village to investigate the matter.

A three-member TMC delegation — comprising Firhad Hakim, Rampurhat MLA Asish Banerjee, and MLA of neighbouring Labpur constituency Abhijit Sinha — was also on its way to Rampurhat.

A Birbhum district police officer said Bhadu Sheikh’s brother, Babar Sheikh, was shot dead a year ago in the same village.

Issue rocks Bengal Assembly

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLAs raised the issue in the West Bengal Assembly on Tuesday and staged a walkout over the same.

BJP MLAs termed the incident “middle-age barbarism” while demanding a statement from CM Mamata Banerjee on Floor over the cause of the violence and the steps being taken over it.

The party also demanded the resignation of Mamata Banerjee as Bengal home minister.

‘Rapid freefall’ of law and order in Bengal, says BJP

BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, who is also the Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly, hit out at the TMC, saying that law and order is in “rapid freefall” in the state.

Suvendu Adhikari’s tweet read: “Law & order in a rapid freefall in WB. Tension & terror has gripped the Rampurhat area of Birbhum district, after a panchayat upoprodhan (deputy chief); Bhadu Sheik was reportedly killed last evening in a bomb attack. Angry mob ransacked and set afire several houses afterwards [sic].”

Alleging “administrative cover-up” with attempts being made to “lower” the toll, Suvendu Adhikari appealed for immediate central intervention into the matter.

Speaking to ANI, Adhikari further said that the law and order situation across West Bengal is grave. “26 murders have taken place in last one week in different parts of the state. Center should intervene and use Article 356 (President’s Rule) or Article 355 to take the situation in their control in Bengal,” he added.

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar also took to Twitter and condemned the incident saying that the state is in “grip of violence culture and lawlessness”.

“Horrifying violence and arson orgy #Rampurhat #Birbhum indicates state is in grip of violence culture and lawlessness. Already eight lives lost. Have sought urgent update on the incident from Chief Secretary. My thoughts are with the families of the bereaved,” Governor Dhankhar said.

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