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Attack on CPM leader, Cong in ghost campaign

Raiganj, May 8: As the Congress resumed its campaign in violence-wracked Chopra and Islampur, unidentified youths attacked the North Dinajpur CPM secretary today, sparking fresh tension in the district.

Bireswar Lahiri was headed for Itahar to campaign for the rural poll when the youths armed with staves and iron rods attacked his Tata Sumo on National Highway 34 at Goalpara, barely a kilometre from Raiganj, the district headquarters.

The CPM leader escaped unhurt, but his vehicle was smashed, police and witnesses said.

Lahiri blamed the Opposition for the attack but refused to name any party or leaders. He lodged a complaint with the Raiganj police station, but nobody was arrested till tonight.

A week after violence broke out in Chopra, the Congress relaunched its campaign in the area today. But in most places, the party had to carry out its campaign without its candidates, who are in hiding.

“We had to postpone our campaign because of attacks on our supporters across Chopra and Islampur. We now have only two days to campaign before the election. That’s hardly enough,” Islampur civic chief Kanailal Agarwala, a Congress leader, said.

He added that the CPM had filed “false” police cases against the Congress candidates who were sure to win the poll on Sunday. “Many of our candidates are afraid to campaign because they fear police will pick them up on the basis of the CPM’s complaints,” Agarwala said.

Violence broke out in the district on April 30 when a group of Congress workers raided a CPM office at Chopra’s Lalbazar, killing Akbar Ali, a party leader. Three more CPM supporters were killed that day when the police opened fire to stop a mob from snatching two Congress leaders arrested in connection with the CPM leader’s murder.

In revenge attacks, CPM workers rampaged through the houses of Congress supporters the next day, killing three elderly men in Islampur .

Lahiri said his driver slammed on the brake when some eight to 10 youths standing on the middle of the national highway tried to stop his vehicle today. “It’s fortunate that the driver reacted fast and, realising who they were, accelerated.”

The assailants hurled stones at the vehicle. They also dented the sides of the Sumo with staves and iron rods as it sped by.

Lahiri accused the Opposition of trying to stir up trouble in the run-up to the election. “Having failed to get it postponed, they are trying to disrupt the poll,” he said.

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