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Trinamul office set afire in land grab protest

Malda, May 22: A Trinamul Congress office in Bamungola was ransacked and set on fire by a mob this morning to protest the party’s alleged complicity in grabbing land and allowing new shops to come up on the grounds of the local weekly market.

Around 200 people went on the rampage around 11.30am and set on fire the party office made of bamboo and tin. They also demolished more than 100 stalls that had come up overnight on land allegedly grabbed by Trinamul. The market houses nearly a thousand shops.

Last night, some men started constructing the new stalls on the vacant land at the marketplace in Pakuahat, 55km from here. This morning, local people who came to the market that remains open on Tuesdays, started protesting when they saw the hurriedly constructed bamboo structures.

A member of the shopowners’ association of Pakuahat, Bhabes Mondal, said the market was spread across 120 bighas and about 30 bighas were vacant. “This is a very old market where transactions take place every Tuesday. Since last night, a group of men had been erecting stalls without our permission. The local people began to protest. When those constructing the stalls did not listen, the protest turned violent this morning,” said Mondal.

He said there was a transaction of Rs 5-4 crore in the market every Tuesday.

“The land is owned by a family in Burdwan and they charge rent that is collected by a person called Utpal Chakrabarty. The collection is nearly Rs 1 lakh and the rent ranges from Rs 500 to Rs 5. Chakrabarty sends the money to the owners in Burdwan,” said Mondal.

He said no transaction could take place today because of the violence.

The area is CPM dominated with the MLA, the panchayat samiti and most of the gram panchayats under the party’s control.

The MLA from Habibpur, under which Bamungola falls, Khagen Murmu, said Trinamul had been backing some unscrupulous people who had been eyeing the vacant land at the marketplace.

“The Trinamul Congress was backing these men and last night they began occupying land without the concurrence of the market committee. This caused trouble. The local people got enraged and attacked their party office and ransacked the shops. If this market is shut down, thousands will be affected. This is the only market in this area where wholesale and retail transactions take place,” Murmu said.

Trinamul has blamed the CPM for provoking the violence. District Youth Trinamul Congress president Amlan Bhaduri said: “For 34 years, the CPM was behind the construction of all these stalls which had come up on this plot. The local people got disgusted and ransacked them. The CPM provoked the mob to set fire to our party office. Our Bamungola block president has lodged a complaint with the police.”

Malda police chief Jayanta Pal said the situation was under control. “Following the setting of fire to a party office and the ransacking of stalls a large police force went to Pakuahat and brought the situation under control. We are keeping a watch on the situation,” Pal said.