|(From top) The motorcycle that was set on fire in the clash lies on the Barrackpore-Barasat Road. Firefighters douse flames after the clash. Pictures by Sanjib Chaki
A clash near Barasat between two Trinamul groups involved in supplying building materials turned into a full-blown battle, leaving at least six policemen injured, a bike torched and several shops ransacked and burnt.
The clash occured along the Barasat-Barrackpore Road, 5km from Barasat and 30km from Calcutta, where budget housing projects are coming up on what used to be farmland or small plots.
The rivalry in Barasat intensified recently after members of both factions came to know that the owner of a brick kiln on a 10-acre plot would sell the property. Both groups were trying to broker a deal with the owner.
Sources said one of the factions eyeing the property was headed by local Trinamul MLA Rathin Ghosh and the other by the Trinamul chairman of Barasat Municipality, Sunil Mukherjee.
“It was a clash between two groups of local youths. Our party activists were not involved in it,” said a Trinamul leader from the area.
Trinamul factions had clashed in New Town on June 7 over the control of syndicates supplying building materials to project sites.
A day later, education minister Partha Chatterjee termed the clashes an internal affair of the party.
The clash in Barasat started when members of one faction, who were sitting at a roadside tea stall, hurled abuses at six rivals passing by on two motorcycles.
“The ones on the motorcycles joined Trinamul after the 2011 Assembly polls. They challenged those sitting at the tea stall and slapped one of them for hurling abuses. The youth who was slapped immediately conveyed the news to other members of his faction over the phone,” said an officer at Duttapukur police station in Barasat.
“Members of both factions rushed to the spot. An altercation started and soon it turned into a clash, which in turn snowballed into a full-blown battle. Around 200 people were involved in the fight.”
On hearing about the fight, a team from the police station rushed to the spot. However, the outnumbered cops had to retreat and at least six of them were hit by brickbats.
An SOS seeking reinforcement was sent to the Doltala police lines, 10km from the spot.
Personnel from the RAF swung into action and lathicharged the warring groups.
“Four persons were arrested. The injured cops were treated at Barasat hospital and discharged,” said Bhaskar Mukherjee, the additional superintendent of police, North 24-Parganas.
Local Trinamul leaders had a hunch that a clash between the two factions might break out anytime.
“On Monday afternoon, a member of the Trinamul-dominated Ichhapore Nilgunge Panchayat Samity held a meeting between the two factions. He was aware that both factions were trying to make money from the sale of the brick kiln’s land, valued at more than Rs 50 crore. The leader requested the members of both factions not to get involved in clashes on the issue,” said a resident.
Trinamul MLA Ghosh, however, said party supporters were not involved in the clash. “Two groups in the area fought over a dispute related to a private property. We asked them to settle the issue by holding talks,” he said.
Barasat Municipality chairman Mukherjee echoed Ghosh’s statement. “None of our party supporters was involved in the clash. There is no syndicate rivalry in Barasat.”
Syndicate rivalry within the ruling party has claimed the life of a Trinamul activist — Somnath Sadhukhan — in Dum Dum.
Sadhukhan was beaten up by rivals with sticks and iron rods last Thursday night and died the next day at a private hospital off the Bypass.
The June 7 clashes in New Town broke out at a spot barely 300 metres from the DLF building. Twenty-two people, believed to be Trinamul activists, were arrested.
At a news conference the day after, education minister Partha Chatterjee admitted that the clashes were an internal matter of the party and the leaders would resolve the issue. Within a few days, Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy said the party had no links with the syndicates.
Last week, the Bidhannagar police commissionerate had tried to broker peace by inviting both factions to New Town police station.
But the move failed as the rivals walked out, abusing and threatening each other.