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AIIMS poster war in Itahar

Raiganj, Jan. 1: The tearing up of some posters that demanded the AIIMS-like hospital in Raiganj has sparked a fresh round of acrimony between the Congress and the Trinamul.

Congress leaders here today threatened to pull down all publicity banners of Trinamul across North Dinajpur district on finding that their posters, with the pictures of Deepa Das Munshi and husband Priya Ranjan, had been torn off in Itahar.

According to sources, this morning Congress supporters found that a giant hoarding, containing faces of Priya Ranjan and Deepa and Raiganj MLA Mohit Sengupta lying torn beside NH34 in Itahar, located 22km from Raiganj town.

The poster mentioned the Congress’s demand for the AIIMS-like hospital at Panishala in Raiganj.

The tearing of the hoarding, which was placed just opposite of Ulka Club, with which Trinamul Itahar MLA Amal Acharya is associated, created tension in the area.

“We consider it an indecent act. Trinamul must realise that the demand to set up this hospital is not only of the residents living in this district but has been supported by residents of north Bengal,” Sengupta, who rushed to Itahar, said.

“Earlier, Trinamul workers had objected to and threatened our workers when they put the hoarding up at that location. It is thus evident that Trinamul leaders masterminded this and tore and damaged the hoarding.”

Led by Sengupta, Congress workers went to Itahar police station and shouted slogans.

As police officials tried to pacify them, Fazlur Rehman, a Congress leader of Itahar, filed a complaint with the police, accusing Trinamul for damaging its hoarding.

Sengupta, after coming out of the police station, said: “We have provided seven days’ time to the police. If the culprits are not arrested within this time, we will pull down all posters, banners and hoardings put by Trinamul not only in Itahar but across North Dinajpur district.”

He said: “The police have been asked to repair the damaged hoarding and put it in the place where it was till last night.”

The issue of putting hoardings on the AIIMS issue by Congress and objections by Trinamul is not a new affair in the district.

Earlier, when hoardings were put up on a shop located off NH34 and opposite to the club run by Acharya, Congress and Trinamul workers had resorted to altercation and minor skirmishes. It was only after police intervention that the Congress could put up the hoarding there.

The Congress, led by Union minister of state for urban development and Raiganj MP Deepa Das Munshi, had time and again demanded that the state should acquire land for the project at Panishala, the proposed site.

The Trinamul government, including chief minister Mamata Banerjee, on the other hand, has denied acquisition of the farmland, prompting Congress to announce a “Writers’ Chalo” march on January 10.

The Trinamul government wants to make the hospital in Kalyani, Nadia, where, the government says, it has vested land.

The Centre, however, has said that the AIIMS-like facility will have to be set up in Raiganj.

Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Union minister of state for health Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury both have reiterated this point.

Deepa, who is leading the campaign to keep the project in Raiganj, while speaking to The Telegraph over phone from Delhi today, said: “Those who have done it (dismantled the hoarding), have done it out of depression. Removing or causing damage to hoardings will not help much in wiping the demand of setting up the hospital from peoples’ minds.”

With the allegations being hurled at Trinamul, Acharya, the district Trinamul president, denied it promptly.

“None of us were involved in such an offensive act. It is the Congress workers who themselves have brought down the hoarding to malign us,” he said.