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Arrest ignites backlash

Andal, Aug. 21: Two groups clashed at Shantipara here this morning with bombs and improvised firearms, severely injuring two women and two children. A large police and Rapid Action Force contingent had to be deployed to bring the situation under control.

The incident was triggered around 10 am when some youths of Shantipara, about 180 km from Calcutta, accosted Sheikh Phatik, a resident of neighbouring Nabagram, and beat him up.

Police said the attack was to avenge the arrest of four of their companions, who allegedly harassed two couples from Nabagram in a drunk state last evening. They were released later.

When news of the attack on Phatik reached Nabagram, more than 150 armed youths surrounded Shantipur. A fierce clash broke out in which at least 30 bombs and bullets were exchanged. The mob torched the hut of Khodeja Bibi, seriously injuring her son Bhutto Kaji, 12. Salma Bibi and Mahela Bibi, both in their mid-thirties, were also hurt as was one-and-a-half-year-old Ritu Hussain.

A large police force and the RAF descended on the area to disperse the warring groups. Seventeen persons were arrested. “A case of rioting has been started against those arrested and we are looking for more trouble-makers who fled the area,” said Burdwan superintendent of police B.. Ramesh.

CPM panchayat pradhan Kanchan Mukherjee alleged that criminals who stole coal from the mines ran gambling and liquor dens at Shantipara. Former Congress panchayat pradhan of Ukhra S.S. Handa said the police were ignoring the menace. “They are colluding with the criminals and Nabagram has been besieged by notorious activities,” Handa said.

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