The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Blood on Keshpur paddy fields

Keshpur, Sept. 23: As reinforcements reached Keshpur and witnesses began to piece together a three-pronged armed invasion, police recovered two bodies from paddy fields that have again become Bengal’s political killing fields.

One of the dead has been identified as 35-year-old Shaktipada Mondal, a Trinamul activist. The bodies — one clad in black trousers and the other in a lungi — bore bullet marks in the stomach and were found near Kota and Piyasal villages, about 25 km from Keshpur.

Deputy inspector general of police (headquarters) Narayan Ghosh said the bodies were found around midnight. “It appears that Shaktipada and his associate were hiding in the jungle after the clash on Sunday. Maybe, they wanted to escape after sundown but they were spotted and shot,” he added.

The CPM chief in Keshpur, Entaj Ali, hedged questions on whether it was his party supporters who shot the two. “They were killed when people tried to stop the attackers,” he said.

In the renewed battle for control of Keshpur — the first since last year’s elections — armed groups attacked the CPM-dominated villages from three sides and fired about 200 rounds. The CPM had alleged that a combined force of Trinamul and the People’s War led the assault.

With tension running high, prominent Trinamul workers and panchayat members in Keshpur are trying to mask their political affiliations. Sheikh Sarwardi, owner of a video hall and a gram panchayat pradhan who won on a Trinamul ticket, said: “I am neither Trinamul nor CPM. I am not in politics.”

But Sarwardi said a group of about 22 armed men had gone to his house. “Yes, they told me to join in the gram dakhal (village grab) programme. When I refused, they abused me and left.”

Witnesses said the group shot at a villager and was about to open fire on another when a police patrol arrived. “They tried to escape but were soon surrounded by the police and villagers. Several of them were caught and guns were seized,” said Sheikh Abdul Gaffar, a villager.

The police took 33 arrested persons — all identified by officials as Trinamul supporters — to Midnapore town to produce them in court. Jawans of the Eastern Frontier Rifles and the Rapid Action Force marched in Keshpur as a confidence-building measure. ( 0)

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