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Bombs & bullets at CPM voters

- 21 injured as suspected Trinamul workers open fire in North 24-Parganas, 12 arrested

Haroa, May 12: Suspected Trinamul workers led by a party block president allegedly hurled bombs and fired at CPM supporters going to vote at Haroa in North 24-Parganas today, injuring 21 and confining hundreds of voters to their homes.

Five persons had to be hospitalised.

Many other voters in Haroa block stayed indoors through the day.

Special poll observer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh, who visited Haroa today and spoke to families of some of the CPM supporters who were assaulted, could not bring the families to the booth to vote in the afternoon despite promising them security.

“I asked them to vote but they did not. I even offered them security but they still refused (to go to vote). It is evident there had been some weakness in confidence building and it is also apparent that someone had made mistakes in the vulnerability mapping of this area. I have taken this allegation very seriously and will send a report to the Election Commission of India,” he said while leaving Brahmanchak village in Haroa block from where the alleged case of assault was reported.

Acting on a suo motu complaint filed by police, 12 persons were arrested this evening.

“No formal complaint has been 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, the additional superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas.

According to sources, the CPM supporters who were attacked today had fled their homes three years ago fearing Trinamul assaults. They had returned home a few days ago and were going to vote at Brahmanchak Free Primary School when around 35 suspected Trinamul workers confronted them with sticks, bombs and pistols at 6.30am around 300 metres from the booth that had central forces manning it.

Brahmanchak village has about 800 residents, of which around 250 are CPM supporters.

“The Trinamul workers had yesterday warned us against voting. But we refused to budge under pressure and thought we would cast our votes early today. But 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.

It was not immediately clear how many shots were fired and the number of bombs hurled.

According to Palan Mondal, 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 went ahead to vote. When we continued to proceed (towards the booth), he asked his men to attack us,” Mondal said from his bed in the Barasat district hospital this afternoon.

Palan had to be given eight stitches, his neighbour, Ruma Mondal, 30, sustained a bullet injury in her right leg. Three others, Bholanath Naskar, Khitish Naskar and Sanjay Mondal suffered splinter injuries and had to be hospitalised.

“It looks like a bullet grazed her leg,” said a doctor who treated Ruma.

Mrityunjoy Mondal denied the allegations levelled against him and his party.

“The CPM is cooking up a story. They had fled the village and have suddenly come back during the polls to create trouble. On the contrary, they had attacked our men and injured two of them today,” Mrityunjoy Mondal said over the phone.

He said the CPM supporters had never been threatened in the area in the past few years.

According to another CPM supporter, Khitish Naskar, many of the injured party cadres hid in their homes, their blood-soaked clothes on, for several hours fearing Trinamul activists would attack them again.

“The injured could be taken out of the village after the police and CRPF personnel entered the village around 9.30am,” Naskar said.

All the 21 injured CPM supporters were first taken to Haroa block health centre, 12km away from Brahmanchak, from where nine were sent to the Barasat district hospital. Four were released after being given first aid.

After the alleged bomb-and-bullet attack, a team of policemen and central police force, accompanied by the police observer, reached the village around 9.30am. The police observer went to the polling booth and talked to the presiding officer and central force personnel who allegedly denied having any knowledge about the attack.

Although a border area between Rajarhat and Basirhat sub-division, Haroa falls under Basirhat constituency which was under the control of the CPI from 1980 till 2009. In the 2009 elections, Trinamul candidate Haji Nurul Islam defeated four-time CPI MP Ajay Chakraborty.

Since 2009, Trinamul has won all elections in the area, but with a meagre margin. Several CPM supporters have had to flee homes after the 2011 Assembly polls in the face of alleged threats and intimidations from the ruling party.

This year, Idris Ali, the minority cell president of Trinamul, is contesting against the CPI’s Nurul Huda.