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Elderly former minister assaulted

Chinsurah, Dec. 8: Forward Bloc leader Naren De, 76, who was a minister in the Left government, was beaten up with rods and sticks by suspected Trinamul activists in Hooghly this afternoon.

De, who has been hospitalised, has suffered haemorrhages in his eyes, doctors said. He also has cuts on his arms and legs.

De was addressing a party workers’ convention in a party office in Dhaniakhali when Trinamul workers walking in a procession barged in and beat him up along with other Bloc leaders.

Police said De was injured in a clash between Trinamul and Bloc workers when “lewd comments were passed from the Bloc office at some women in the procession”.

Trinamul denied involvement in the attack.

De, who had held the agriculture and food portfolios in the Left government, said from his bed at Imambara Sadar Hospital in Chinsurah: “Around 30 of us were holding the convention. Around 4.30pm, a large number of local Trinamul workers entered the office armed with sticks and rods and beat us up. My spectacles fell off and I slumped to the ground. But they continued to beat me.”

As the assailants ransacked the office, De’s colleagues ran away. The attackers smashed the windscreen of De’s car.

The driver, who too fled, informed senior Bloc leaders in the district. The leaders called up the police.

“After the attackers left, a man came entered the office and carried me to a nearby tea stall. He helped me sit on a wooden bench. The police arrived after some time, called an ambulance and took me to the hospital,” De said.

Doctor B.R. Manna, who examined De, said: “He has suffered haemorrhages in both eyes. He also has bruises and cut marks in his left arm and both legs. He will be examined by an eye surgeon and will undergo scans, X-rays and other tests.”

Another Bloc leader, Ajit Patra, 65, suffered fractures in both hands.

The officer in charge of Dhaniakhali police station, Asim Sarkar, said: “Preliminary investigation has revealed that some lewd comments had been hurled from the Bloc office at some women in the Trinamul procession. Then a clash broke out between workers of the two parties. Naren De was injured in the clash.”

Forward Bloc state secretariat member and former agriculture marketing minister Hafiz Ali Sairani alleged that over 30 Trinamul activists armed with bamboo sticks and rods had attacked the Dhaniakhali party office

He denied the charge that lewd comments had been made at women. Sairani said party workers would protest the assault across the state tomorrow.

The Trinamul vice-president in Hooghly, Dilip Jadav, said: “The Trinamul Congress is not involved in this incident. We don’t know who attacked the Forward Bloc office in Dhaniakhali.”