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Homes burn in food fury
Motiar Hossain’s ration shop and house on fire. Picture by Dhirendra Kumar Chakraborty

Bolpur/Durgapur, Oct. 4: Attacks on ration dealers continued across Birbhum today, a day after police opened fire on marauding mobs in Burdwan.

The houses of two dealers were set on fire in Rampurhat and foodgrain looted from at least four shops. Five policemen were injured in clashes in three places and at least 15 villagers arrested.

In Dakhalbati village of Rampurhat, 280km from Calcutta, 300 villagers marched to Motiar Hossain’s ration shop, which doubles as his home, at 8.30 this morning and demanded that foodgrain due to them for the past 11 months be handed over in a week.

Hossain, his wife, three daughters and sons-in-law fled through a backdoor.

The crowd broke into the shop, rolled out four kerosene barrels and set them ablaze.

Around the same time, around 500 armed residents of Gug village, 15km from Dakhalbati, descended on the house-cum-shop of Raghunath Mondal. He, too, fled with his family.

When the police arrived, they were attacked with rods, swords and brickbats. Five of them, including inspector-in-charge Sujit Ghosh, were injured. Ghosh was given six stitches on his head.

In Mahulara, Trinamul Congress leader Chittaranjan Rakshit led villagers to ration dealer Jamaluddin Sheikh’s house. They clashed with alleged CPM workers, hurling bombs at each other. The police brought the situation under control with a batoncharge.

Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today visited Bankura’s Sonamukhi, where the seeds of the ration rage had been sown on September 16, and announced a string of state-wide programmes against “corruption” in the food distribution system.

“Come with me and join the food movement to fight the CPM,” Mamata told a rally.

Trinamul workers will gherao block offices on Monday and stage a dharna in front of all sub-divisional offices the next day. A rally will be held on October 11 at Esplanade.

Mamata will visit Ketugram in Burdwan tomorrow, where the police had opened fire yesterday, leaving a protester dead.

The Malda food department has cancelled the licences of 10 ration dealers and issued showcause notices to four on the ground of corruption.

In Calcutta, food and civil supplies minister Paresh Adhikari asked district magistrates to convene all-party meetings to defuse the tension. He said the DMs have also been asked to provide security to ration dealers.

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