Suri, Aug. 13: Industries minister Partha Chatterjee and Trinamul’s Birbhum chief Anubrata Mondal today ran into angry party supporters protesting against the murder of a local leader, allegedly by a rival faction with a hand in illegal mining.
Ashok Ghosh, the former block president of the party at Khoirashol, was shot to death by motorcycle-borne assailants yesterday.
Chatterjee and Mondal today faced enraged Trinamul workers first at Suri Sadar Hospital, where the slain leader’s body was kept for post-mortem, and then at Khoirashol, where the two leaders had gone to meet Ghosh’s supporters. Mondal’s car was pelted with stones at Khoirashol.
Chatterjee’s car, which was ahead of Mondal’s, was spared.
Several Trinamul workers, angry at not being given tickets for the panchayat elections, had contested as Independents against official candidates chosen by Mondal in the Khoirashol-Dubrajpur belt.
In the 10 gram panchayats in Khoirashol block, 37 rebel Trinamul workers contested as Independents and 30 of them lost.
Faction fights are not uncommon in the Birbhum Trinamul, sources said. What has made the tussle explosive in this coal-rich belt of western Birbhum is illegal mining and its associated spoils.
Trinamul insiders said Ashok Ghosh’s murder was the fallout of a tussle within the ruling party over whom to support — illegal miners or Bengal Emta, a private mining company.
A senior Trinamul leader in Birbhum admitted that feuding within the party was one of the biggest challenges.
“Although we did well in Birbhum, the protests today make it clear that factional feud remains one of the biggest challenges for our party in the district…. The fight is over the spoils of illegal coal mining,” the leader said.
Asked about the murder, minister Chatterjee today said: “Be it factional feud or an act by criminals, police will investigate and arrest the culprits.”
Suri MLA Swapan Ghosh, said to be close to the slain leader, today sought a probe into the possible involvement of illegal coal miners in the killing. “The police should also investigate the involvement of coal smugglers. (Ashok) Ghosh was against coal smuggling,” the MLA said.
Bengal Emta had got the mining rights in the coal-rich belt eight years ago, but the company hasn’t been able to start mining because of resistance from groups involved in illegal mining, a police officer said.
The officer said: “Earlier, CPM leaders used to back the illegal coal miners…. Now, they are under Trinamul shelter.”
The Trinamul workers who heckled Mondal and Chatterjee today sought a CBI probe into the murder of Ashok Ghosh, who was the Trinamul block president in Khoirashol before being replaced by Ashok Mukherjee last year.
Ghosh’s son Biswajit accused Mondal and Ashok Mukherjee of plotting his father’s murder.
However, the family was yet to lodge a police complaint till late this evening.
“The way Ashok Ghosh was killed makes it clear that professional killers were hired,” a senior district Trinamul leader said.
According to the police, unidentified bike-borne assailants shot Ashok Ghosh, 56, while he was on his way to Bhimgarh railway station to catch a train to Sainthia to meet his wife Bijoya, who works as a nurse at Sainthia block hospital.
The Trinamul leader, who was a clerk at Kendragaria High School in Khoirashol, was riding pillion on a party colleague’s motorcycle when he was shot twice in the head around 5.30pm. He was killed on the spot.
In the panchayat elections, Trinamul bagged the Birbhum zilla parishad by winning 25 of the 42 seats. It also won 13 of the 19 panchayat samitis and 94 of the 167 gram panchayats.
In Khoirashol block, all gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and the two zilla parishad seats are in Trinamul’s kitty.