Kolkata: Two people were killed and 11 injured on Thursday after clashes broke out between two groups suspected to be affiliated to the Trinamool Congress and the BJP in Bhatpara area of West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district, police said. Five people have been arrested in connection with the clash, they added.
The authorities have imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in and around the area following the violence.
The ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP blamed each other for the clash, which is seen as an attempt to establish dominance in Bhatpara, which comes under the Barrackpore Lok Sabha constituency.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee directed senior police officers to take stringent action against those involved in the incident "irrespective of their political colour", state government sources said.
A senior police officer said that the two deceased have been identified as Rambabu Shaw and Dharamveer Shaw. After visiting the spot, Director General of Police Virendra said that six of the 11 wounded were police personnel who had suffered injuries while trying to contain the violence.
The state government has removed Barrackpore Police Commissioner Tanmay Ray Chaudhuri and appointed Manoj Kumar Verma, who was the Inspector General of Police of Darjeeling. ADG South Bengal, Sanjay Singh, has been given particular charge of the Barrackpore Police Commissionerate.
Bombs were reportedly hurled and several rounds of bullets fired in the air by members of the two warring groups near the newly-constructed Bhatpara Police Station, which was made operational earlier on Thursday. Several country-made bombs and revolvers had been recovered from the area, police said.
"Some anti-socials and criminals have been active in Bhatpara. Outside elements have now joined them, disrupting peace in the area. RAF (Rapid Action Force) personnel have been deployed," said Home Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay.
He said that the administration has taken a serious note of the situation in certain areas under the Barrackpore Police Commissionerate, including Bhatpara.
"The state government requests all concerned to avoid and resist from making inflammatory statements... in the context of the situation in Jagatdal and Bhatpara areas. We request all to cooperate and not get provocated by exciting propaganda from any side," Bandyopadhyay said.
Asked whether the deaths were because of police firing, as alleged by the locals, the DG said, "The cause of the deaths is under investigation. Police fired in the air."
Internet services were also suspended in North 24 Parganas district till the midnight of June 21 as a precautionary measure, according to news agency ANI.
A TMC citadel for long, Bhatpara has been witnessing frequent post-poll violence between the rival parties.
The fight has intensified ever since Lok Sabha member from Barrackpore, Arjun Singh, crossed over to the BJP from the TMC.
In the byelections to the Bhatpara assembly seat that were held along with the Lok Sabha elections, his son Pawan Singh had defeated TMC candidate and former state minister Madan Mitra.
"For a long time now, criminals from outside the state have been creating nuisance in the area, but Mamata Banerjee has not taken any action against them. Today, the police fired from point blank range," Arjun Singh said.
Senior BJP leader Mukul Roy claimed that Banerjee has lost her "mental balance" ever since Pawan became an MLA from Bhatpara and is "using the police force to unleash terror".
Denying the allegations, Jyotipriyo Mullick, the TMC's North 24 Parganas district president, said the clash was a result of infighting within the BJP.
"The violence took place because of infighting between the new BJP entrants and the old timers in the party," Mullick said.
Madan Mitra alleged that TMC leaders could not enter Bhatpara as "armed goons from outside the state" are active in the area.
(With inputs from agencies)