The house of a CPM leader that Trinamul supporters burnt in Khanakul on Thursday. (Ananda Das)
Nov. 26: Alleged CPM cadres today mounted a Nandigram-style recapture bid on two villages in Khanakul, triggering a battle in which a Trinamul Congress supporter was shot dead and strengthening fears that the ruling party is falling back on violence in areas where it is losing ground.
The officer in charge of Khanakul police station, who led a posse that beat back the cadres, was shot in the leg and is admitted to SSKM Hospital. The clash broke out in Chandravan and Hiyadpur, around 120km from Calcutta.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has asked the district administration to restore order immediately but the CPM did not condemn the violence — in line with a recent pattern in which the government sticks to the straight and narrow and the cadres enforce their own writ.
CPM state secretary Biman Bose confined himself to saying an all-party meeting should be called in Hooghly district, where Khanakul is located, to restore normality. The district administration obliged, calling such a meeting on December 1.
The Khanakul attack is the latest in a series in Hooghly after the Lok Sabha elections in which the CPM lost two of the three seats in the district. Mamata Banerjee was also blocked by opponents on her way to Arambagh in the same district earlier this month.
The poll slide had triggered a flow of political activists to Trinamul in many villages, triggering clashes. The CPM said many of its supporters in Chandravan and Hiyadpur had fled after the violence.
This morning, according to the CPM, 27 people tried to return to the two adjoining villages. But Trinamul supporters said they found 200 people attacking the two hamlets around 7am.
Kazi Rakesh, a 20-year-old youth from Chandravan, said: “When I woke up, I found armed CPM men shooting at villagers using pipe guns and other firearms. They also hurled bombs at us. At this, some Trinamul workers attacked them with whatever they had — bamboo sticks, iron rods, shovels, axes, sickles.”
Some Trinamul supporters who were working in the fields also tried to resist the armed group. Villagers said the CPM men had come from the adjoining Majpur area.
When the police, led by officer-in-charge Sukomal Das, reached the spot half an hour later, the CPM cadres started retreating but kept firing at the villagers. Among the six villagers hit, 40-year-old Ananta Dolui died.
The chase lasted around 45 minutes during which officer Das was also shot at.
Trinamul workers went on the rampage later, torching houses of three CPM leaders in Khanakul. The houses were vacant as the occupants had fled.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who has emerged from a perceived shell of despondency after the successive poll blows to the CPM and has vowed not to surrender before the Opposition, summoned Hooghly district magistrate Aswini Kumar Yadav and police chief Satyajit Banerjee to Writers’ Buildings.
“The chief minister... asked the (district) administration to firmly deal with those involved. He also asked them to ensure that those who had fled their homes must return,” said home secretary Ardhendu Sen.
Kanta Dolui, the father of the villager killed today, said: “We were with the Congress for over 50 years. Now my sons have switched over to Trinamul. When CPM men attacked us, my sons and others retaliated with bamboo sticks, shovels and axes.”
CPM leader Anil Basu said the clash started when Trinamul men prevented 27 CPM workers from returning home to Chandravan. “They had fled their homes after the Lok Sabha polls. They were attacked when they were returning home today,” he said.