Bullets fly in ‘war-zone‘ Purulia, two killed

PURULIA/JHARGRAM: Two BJP workers were killed and at least four policemen injured in a clash in Purulia’s Ghagra along the Bengal-Jharkhand border on Monday, taking the toll to five in the course of the gram panchayat board formation.

BJP supporter Damodar Mandal, standing near Jaipur Road, was hit by a bullet and died on the way to hospital. “Two of our workers died of bullet injuries. We are not sure if they were shot by the police or Trinamool cadre dressed in khaki opened fire on them from behind,” said BJP state general secretary Sayantan Basu.

superintendent of police Akash Magharia denied the charge. “BJP workers attacked policemen posted in front of the gram panchayat office. We burst tear gas shells after they took to heavy brick-batting. Later, we came to know that two bodies have been found in the village. We have sent the bodies for autopsy,” he said.

Locals alleged that police opened fire after they failed to control the mob.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee condemned the incident. “Why is there so much violence over formation of gram panchayat board? I am upset with the deaths even if they are from the opposition,” the CM said. Banerjee said “outsiders” from across the border (Jharkhand) were coming to the state. The CM said the opposition had led an attack on cops in Purulia. “A policeman is seriously injured and in ICCU,” she said.

The “outsider” allegation did the rounds all through the day in Trinamool circles to explain the violence in Purulia’s Jaipur and Jhargram’s Bhulabheda, both places situated along the Bengal-Jharkhand border.

Trouble broke out in the morning when TMC raised a point over the caste certificate of BJP member Adit Mandal, contesting for the pradhan’s post in Ghagra panchayat. It was alleged that the certificate was forged and he could not contest. BJP was eyeing support from Left members to ride out the crisis.

BJP supporters gathered in front of Ghagra High School soon after the news spread. A BJP worker, Adhi Mandal, came out of the panchayat office around 2 pm and started shouting that the BJP candidate’s nomination was being cancelled on flimsy grounds. This sparked tension, prompting police to lathi charge the mob.

The crowd reciprocated with bricks. As many as four policemen, including Pundag IC Sk Ismail Ali, fell on the ground bleeding profusely. Police burst tear gas shells but the situation was far from being contained. Police then opened fire in the air. In the melee, BJP worker Niranjan Gope (24) was hit. Damodar, standing near the Jaipur Pundag highway — almost 200 metres from the spot — was also hit.

According to locals, BJP, CPM and TMC had won three each of the 11-seat Jaipur panchayat samiti and the pradhan’s seat was reserved for a Scheduled Caste candidate.

In another incident at Jhargram, BJP workers in Bhulabheda area of Belpahari went on the rampage and damaged six vehicles apart from setting three motorbikes on fire. The tension in the area mounted when Adivasi Samanway Mancha tried to form the panchayat board.
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