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Back home after 3 years on the run, Left voters face bullets and bombs

Haroa, May 12: Suspected Trinamul workers allegedly led by a party block president today threw bombs and fired at a group of 250-odd CPM supporters, who were heading to a polling station in Haroa, North 24-Parganas.

Twenty-one people were injured and five are in hospital: one woman with a bullet graze in the leg, three people with splinter injuries, and a man with a head gash from a dao (cleaver) blow. The other 16 suffered bruises and cuts from stick blows

These Left voters had apparently fled home three years ago to avoid Trinamul attacks and had returned to Brahmanchak village a few days ago to vote today.

They said they had been warned not to vote but thought that travelling in a large group early in the morning — at 6.30am — would be safe.

Special poll observer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh later visited Brahmanchak but his assurances of security failed to embolden anyone to step out again to vote.

Fear of retaliation dissuaded the victims from lodging police complaints. The police registered a complaint on their own and had arrested 12 people by tonight.

“No formal complaint was lodged by the victims or their families. We have started a case on our own and are trying to arrest all the culprits as early as possible,” said Bhaskar Mukherjee, additional superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas.

Haroa falls in the Basirhat constituency, which was with the CPI from 1980 to 2009. In 2009, Trinamul candidate Haji Nurul Islam defeated four-time CPI member of Parliament Ajay Chakraborty.

Since 2009, Trinamul has won all the elections in the area, though not by large margins. Brahmanchak, about 45km from Calcutta, has about 800 residents.

Idris Ali, the Trinamul minority cell president, is contesting against the CPI’s Nurul Huda this time.

According to CPM sources, the victims were about 300 metres from the Brahmanchak Free Primary School polling station, guarded by central forces, when around 35 Trinamul workers confronted them with sticks, bombs and pistols.

“They surrounded us in the narrow path that leads to the booth and thrashed us from all sides and even fired at us,” said Palan Mondal, who suffered a deep cut on his head that needed eight stitches.

It wasn’t clear how many shots were fired and the number of bombs hurled. According to Palan, the attack was led by Mrityunjoy Mondal, Trinamul block president in Minakhan and the husband of local Trinamul MLA Usharani Mondal.

“He was at the forefront and threatened to kill us if we voted. When we continued to walk towards the booth, he asked his men to attack us,” Palan said from his bed in Barasat district hospital.

Palan’s neighbour Ruma Mondal, 30, had her right leg grazed by a bullet. Bholanath Naskar, Khitish Naskar and Sanjay Mondal suffered splinter injuries.

Mrityunjoy denied the allegations. “They (the CPM supporters) fled the village and have suddenly come back during the polls to create trouble. It was they who attacked our men and injured two of them,” he said over the phone.

A CPM supporter, Khitish Naskar, said many of the injured hid in their homes for several hours after the assault, fearing a repeat attack. “The injured were taken out of the village after the police and the CRPF entered Brahmanchak around 9.30am,” Naskar said.