|Adhir Chowdhury and Pradip Bhattacharya (with folded hands) talk to the villagers on Monday. Picture by Ananda Das
Feb. 24: A “cautious” Hooghly police today strengthened security for state Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury’s visit to the village of a rape victim where senior party leaders were allegedly heckled yesterday.
Senior Congress leaders, including former state party chief Pradip Bhattacharya and MLA Abdul Mannan, were yesterday surrounded by about 500 villagers who abused, pushed around and waved black flags at them during their visit to the home of a schoolgirl allegedly raped by a tea stall worker last week.
The Congress leaders had accused Trinamul of instigating the villagers, a charge the ruling party had denied.
The village was quiet today when junior railway minister Chowdhury led his team of Bhattacharya, Mannan, Congress general secretary Amitava Chakraborty and other party leaders to the house of the rape victim.
The state Congress president assured the girl’s family that his party leaders in the area would stand by them. “Congress leaders will keep coming to the village to help you in need,” he was heard telling the girl’s mother. He also assured proper education for the 11-year-old.
The police said they were “cautious” today and deployed more personnel as the Congress leaders had informed them about the visit days ahead.
“The Congress leaders had not informed us before visiting the village yesterday. But today, we ensured adequate police arrangements in the area. It was about a central minister’s visit,” Hooghly police chief Sunil Chowdhury said.
He denied his forces remained mute spectators yesterday, a charge the Congress team had levelled after the alleged assault on them.
The villagers today alleged that those who assaulted the Congress leaders were “outsiders”. “Some outsiders had entered our village yesterday to attack the Congress leaders. So we barricaded the village since morning today,” said Nanda Luhar, 38, a farmer.
Bhattacharya today said those who had heckled the Congress team were sent by Trinamul’s Chinsurah MLA, Asit Majumdar.
The Trinamul leader denied the charge.
Earlier in the day, Adhir Chowdhury led a silent 3km rally in Chinsurah to protest the killing of Youth Congress leader Avijit Rahman by suspected Trinamul activists on February 12.