| Villagers around the body in Ketugram. (Dipankar Chatterjee)
Oct. 3: The ration rage today spilled over to Burdwan where police fired on marauding villagers who attacked a dealer this morning.
A protester was killed. But police are yet to confirm whether their bullet felled Dhenupada Das, 35, at Gamnaserandi village in Ketugram.
“We were forced to fire seven rounds,” said superinten- dent Peeyush Pandey, who led a force to the village after its residents snatched a ration dealer away from the police, tied him to a tree and stoned him.
This was the third instance of firing at villagers angry at the ration system. The rage was earlier confined to Bankura and Birbhum, where a protester was killed on Sunday.
The Trinamul Congress and the Congress demanded a CBI probe into the “ration scam”. Mamata Banerjee likened the agitation to the CPM’s violent food movement in the 1960s when the Congress-ruled Centre was accused of protecting hoarders. She left for Bankura tonight.
CPM state secretary Biman Bose ruled out the inquiry, accusing the Opposition of trying to create a situation that could lead to the collapse of the public distribution system.
If villagers’ allegations are true, it is in a shambles already. Bags full of wheat and rice have been found in godowns at places where ration shops were allegedly not selling them for months,
Around 1,500 residents of Gamnaserandi, about 200km from Calcutta, demanded Rs 1,000 for each ration card holder from Ranjit Mondal, who had allegedly not sold wheat and rice for over a year.
When Ranjit refused to pay, he was beaten up and his shop was looted.
The police tried to whisk Ranjit away, but the villagers snatched him. The Ketugram inspector-in-charge came with reinforcements but the police had to fire when the mob refused to release Ranjit.
The villagers fled but regrouped later and prevented the police from removing Dhenupada’s body.
“The inspector killed an innocent villager. CPM leaders instigated him,” alleged farmer Dinabandhu Mondal.
The superintendent came with RAF jawans and lathicharged the mob that fled again, leaving the body behind.
The chief minister appealed to people not to take law into their hands. “The government has taken steps to regularise food supply,” he said.
Bankura and Birbhum continued to be tense.
There was trouble in North 24-Parganas, too. Two dealers, held hostage in Amdanga, about 25km from Calcutta, were set free only after they took ill late in the evening.