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4-min read

As the Sleepy Hamlet Turns Into Battlefield for TMC & BJP, Sandeshkhali Villagers Call For Peace

Political experts feel that with each party trying to hold sway over areas, such clashes and killings would continue to make news in Bengal.

Sujit Nath | News18.com

Updated:June 9, 2019, 10:54 PM IST
As the Sleepy Hamlet Turns Into Battlefield for TMC & BJP, Sandeshkhali Villagers Call For Peace
A ransacked party office in Basirhat. (News18)

Sandeshkhali: After a brief cloudy morning, the sun was out by noon and villagers were busy in their daily chores, unaware of the political killings waiting to happen in this sleepy hamlet of Sandeshkhali in Bengal’s North 24-Parganas district.

About 75km from Kolkata, close to the Bangladesh border, Minoti Mondal (46) was arranging cow dung cakes in front of her thatched hut at Bhangipara. Her cousin, Sandip, was feeding chickens when a gunshot and some explosions created ripples in the area.

It was around 3.30pm on Saturday. Sandip rushed out to find his brother Pradip Mondal, an active BJP worker, in a pool of blood with pieces of flesh coming out of his left eye.

Few metres away, another body, identified as that of local Trinamool leader Qayyum Mollah, with multiple stab injuries was lying inside a toilet.

There was blood-curdling scream all over. Before Sandip could realise what was happening, nearly 100 Trinamool Congress workers, armed with fire arms, lathis and choppers allegedly went on a rampage attacking houses of BJP supporters.

“They were threatening to kill all of us as one of their leaders was stabbed to death,” Sandip said.

Speaking to News18, Pradip’s wife Padma Mondal, said, “Our only fault is that we support the BJP in our area. My husband asked TMC workers to remove their flag from his shop and he was brutally killed. For God’s sake, please let peace prevail and Bengal see ‘unnayan’ (development) and not bloodshed.”

Qayyum’s father Liyaqat Ali Mollah, however, alleged that BJP workers first killed his son and in retaliation, villagers launched an attack. “I want stern action against my son’s killers,” he added.

According to BJP leaders, it was a pre-planned attack as TMC workers, who had gathered for a booth committee meeting, were seen armed with fire arms and choppers.

Sheikh Shahjahan, local Trinamool block president, said, “They killed our party worker Qayyum for putting up the party flag. They started it first and it all happened in front of the police.”

BJP’s Bashirhat president Ganesh Ghosh told News18, “Sandeshkhali is one of the constituents of the Bashirhat Lok Sabha. Though we have lost the seat, there were many booths from where we were leading. At booth number 56 (in Bhangipara where the clash took place), we were leading by more than 150 votes. The Trinamool Congress is making aggressive efforts to re-establish its dominance in places where the BJP has made inroads. Saturday’s clash was a pre-planned move of the Trinamool.”

He said, “On Saturday, TMC workers, led by Qayyum Mollah, intentionally put up their party flag at Pradip Mondal’s ration shop, fully aware of the latter's political inclination. When Pradip protested, he was brutally beaten up. In the meantime, other villagers gathered in the area and there was a violent clash. Later, I came to know that Qayyum was killed and in retaliation, they killed five of our workers.”

In a bid to polarise voters on religious lines, Basirhat has been witnessing a number of communal riots in recent years.

In 2017, a Facebook post shared by a teenager from Baduria in Bashirhat had sparked tension in the area.

In neighbouring Deganga (24km from Bashirhat), people from two communities clashed in 2010 over a piece of land at Chattal Pally village that was formerly owned by Rani Rashmoni (founder of the famed Dakshineswar Temple near Kolkata).

The BJP’s vote-share has increased from 6.14% in 2009 to 16.8% in 2014. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the saffron party managed to increase its vote-share to 30.13%.

The recent Assembly elections also reveal a similar picture. In 2011, BJP’s Hajarilal Sarkar managed a 3.91% vote-share and since then, the party has been only gaining more ground.

In the 2014 Assembly by-election, BJP’s Samik Bhattacharya defeated TMC’s Dipendu Biswas with 37.43% votes.

In 2016, though the BJP lost to the ruling camp, it continued hold on to its base, as revealed in the recently held parliamentary election.

After the massive setback in the Lok Sabha election, the Trinamool has much at stake as it prepares for the 2021 state poll.

Political experts feel that with each party trying to hold sway over areas, such clashes and killings would continue to make news in Bengal.

Officially, two BJP workers, identified as Pradip Mondal and Sukanta Mondal, and one TMC leader Qayyum Mollah were killed in Saturday’s clash.

However, BJP leader Mukul Roy alleged that five party workers, including Pradip Mondal, Sukanta Mondal, Tapan Mondal, Devbrata Mondal and Shankar Mondal were shot dead, while another 18 party cadres are missing.

One of the missing men Debdas Mondal’s wife Supriya said, “They dragged my husband to the nearby field and since then, he is missing. Police have done nothing. Law and order has completely collapsed in the area. We are living in fear. Please save us from being killed.”

None of the senior police officers, including DGP Virendra, IGP (Presidency Range) Vishal Garg, ADG (Law and Order) Gyanwant Singh and Superintendent of Police (Bashirhat) Saburi Rajkumar, were available for their comments.

When asked about the present situation in Basirhat, Home Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said, "I am busy... I will not be able to say anything now. I'll talk later."

Meanwhile, both the political parties are planning to send separate teams for a visit to Sandeshkhali.

A massive police force is deployed in the area, while internet and broadband services remained snapped since Sunday morning.

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| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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