April 14: The route to the rural poll was smeared with more blood today as a CPM candidate was killed and a party leader was wounded in Murshidabad and West Midnapore.
The CPM’s panchayat nominee from Herampur village in Islampur, Mantu Sheikh, was attacked by a mob armed with bombs and firearms in the afternoon. He died on the spot. His elder brother and mother were admitted to the Behrampore General Hospital with serious injury.
Police, however, said the incident was a result of personal enmity. “Intense rivalry between the neighbours led to the attack after two goats belonging to one of the families died of poisoning. Senior officers are investigating the political ramifications of the incident,” said Murshidabad superintendent of police Virendra.
Sheikh’s mother Rehana Bibi said they were attacked after two goats belonging to the Congress nominee from their village, Khejmat Sheikh, were found dead. “The goats were grazing on Khejmat’s land and we were wrongly blamed. Congress supporters attacked us. They killed my son,” a wounded Rehana Bibi said.
Sheikh, 35, was the second panchayat candidate killed. On April 11, a CPI nominee was murdered in the Hariharpara police station area of Murshidabad.
Early today, unknown assailants shot at a former CPM branch committee secretary in Banspahari in West Midnapore. The attack by alleged People’s War activists triggered tension in the district.
The police said Sisir Mahato, 45, was cycling back to his village from a local fair around 2.30 am when four or five men surrounded him and pumped bullets. Other villagers returning from the mela ran towards the spot on hearing gunshots. Sensing a mob surging towards it, the gang fled into an adjoining forest shouting pro-People’s War slogans.
Mahato was shifted to the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Calcutta later in the day.
West Midnapore superintendent of police K.C. Meena and other senior officers went to the spot to oversee operations to capture the assailants. Meena said the police in Purulia and Bankura have been alerted.
The police said before falling unconscious, Mahato had managed to state that he had recognised Moniram Sardar in the group that fired at him. Sardar, the police added, was a senior member of the People’s War action squad based in Belpahari.
The district CPM reacted strongly to the attack. It was an attempt to destabilise the process of the panchayat elections, the party said.
“The attack is nothing but a move to hit out at parliamentary democracy as many of their so-called supporters are deserting their ranks and ideals of violence to return to the mainstream,” said Dahar Sen, a CPM district secretariat member.
Defer poll call
Union minister for human resources development Murli Manohar Joshi today demanded “total postponement” of the panchayat elections in the wake of the violence unleashed by the CPM.
“A reign of terror has been let loose by the communists in many districts and Opposition candidates are being denied their democratic rights to file nominations,” he said.