Karimpur, June 27: A medieval an-eye-for-an-eye retribution was enforced with lightning speed in a Bengal panchayat today, killing a leader each from either side of the political spectrum.
The savagery — the latter part of which was initially blamed on “spontaneous mob reaction” — took on a macabre political overtone when it emerged that one of the murders had changed the numerical equations in the local panchayat in Nadia. (See chart)
The violence comes at a sensitive time in Bengal when both the Left and the BJP have been complaining of a spike in attacks on their cadres after the Lok Sabha polls. Less than 24 hours ago, veteran Left leaders had gone to the extent of spending a night on the street in the heart of Calcutta to draw attention to the violence.
In Nadia, the chain of events was triggered when a Trinamul Congress leader was shot dead while he was returning from a court after a hearing in a murder case.
Within minutes, a crowd baying for blood marched to the panchayat office 500 metres away and hacked and shot dead an elderly CPM member who was working in a room.
The Trinamul leader who was shot dead first has been identified as Anisur Biswas, 55, who was with the Congress earlier and had to resign as panchayat chief when he was convicted in a murder case. The conviction was later overturned. Police said the second victim was Abdul Haque Siddique Sheikh, 62.
“Anisur was returning home from the bus stand on his bicycle when he was surrounded by unknown people and shot dead. Within a few minutes, nearly 100 people stormed the panchayat office and killed Abdul Haque,” a police officer said. Abdul Haque was also the branch committee secretary of the CPM.
“The double murder is shocking. I have asked the police to take strong action against the culprits,” district magistrate P.B. Salim said.
The circumstances surrounding the murder of the Trinamul leader mirror the vendetta-driven feuds that have survived the change of guard and continue to symbolise politics in wide swathes of Bengal.
Bidyan Sheikh, the son-in-law of Trinamul leader Anisur, said: “My father-in-law was killed to avenge an old murder case in which he was falsely implicated by the CPM. As far as I know, the family members of former CPM leader Abdul Latif, who was killed in 2005, today organised his murder.”
According to the police, Anisur had been an accused in the murder of two CPM activists. A lower court had found him guilty in one case and sentenced him to life imprisonment but he was acquitted by Calcutta High Court last year. The other case — the one dealing with the murder of Latif — is pending in a court in Krishnanagar.
Block Trinamul president Arzel Mandal said the CPM had “unleashed terror in the area since it won the panchayat last year”.
On the murder of the CPM panchayat member, Mandal said: “It was a spontaneous outburst of the local people who loved Anisur. The mob which attacked the panchayat office had no political identity.”
CPM MLA and Nadia district secretariat member S.M. Sadi alleged a larger design. “The murder of our panchayat member was not at all in retaliation to the Trinamul leader’s murder. As far as I know, the Trinamul leader was killed in retaliation to his earlier crime. But Trinamul goons used the incident to kill our leader to grab the panchayat body.”
The death of Abdul Haque has locked the panchayat in a tie with the Left and Trinamul commanding the support of six members each.
In a tie, the present Left dispensation will run the panchayat. But Trinamul will soon get a chance to try and secure the panchayat as byelections seem the only way out.
Tehatta subdivisional officer Arnab Chatterjee said: “We will send a report to the state election commission, requesting it to hold byelections.”