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Bombs and bullets in middle of busy street

Two groups thought to owe allegiance to rival Trinamul leaders hurled bombs at each other and fired bullets in the air on Beleghata Main Road on Sunday evening, sending motorists speeding for cover and forcing residents indoors.

Police sources said at least 20 bombs were hurled between 7.20pm and 8.30pm, leaving one person injured and the entire neighbourhood pulverised.

Beleghata Main Road was closed to traffic for nearly an hour from the CIT Road crossing till the EM Bypass because of the clash.

Members of the warring factions also hurled soft drink bottles and bricks at each other, damaging windowpanes and motorbikes in the area. “Several rounds of bullets were fired in the air by the two factions,” said an officer at Beleghata police station.

Nobody had been arrested till late on Sunday.

Sources said the groups were fighting for control of a vacant piece of land along Beleghata Main Road, a real estate goldmine. “Both groups wanted control over the 25-cottah plot for real estate development,” a source said.

Metro tried to contact Paresh Pal, the local Trinamul MLA, but several calls on his mobile phone went unanswered. The newspaper had also tried reaching the leaders of the two factions, Shankar Chakraborty and Raju Naskar, but both had allegedly fled the area. Chakraborty’s mobile phone was switched off while Naskar’s number couldn’t be confirmed.

The police said the violence was triggered by an attack on a Trinamul Congress supporter, Tarun Sadhukhan, in the afternoon. He is known to be close to Chakraborty.

“Around 4 pm, I was outside the meat shop where I work when six men in a car, including Naskar, hurled bombs at me. I was injured by the splinters and fell on the ground. One of the men lifted me up and hit me on the head with a revolver butt,” said Sadhukhan, who was taken to a private nursing home. He needed five stitches.

Sadhukhan works for Swapan Ghosh, whose shop is adjacent to the 25-cottah plot over which the two Trinamul factions are fighting. He lodged a complaint against Naskar and five others with Beleghata police station.

“They returned in the evening after hearing that Sadhukhan was at the police station and started hurling bombs and firing in the air on Beleghata Main Road,” said Asish Dutta, a Trinamul worker who had gone to police station with Sadhukhan.

“I had just alighted from an auto near Alochaya cinema on Beleghata Main Road when I saw some people hurling bombs from a car. One of the bombs exploded near my leg and I suffered splinter injuries on my legs and toes,” said Piyali Chakraborty, a resident of the area.

The bomb fight left motorists and residents who were at home in a state of shock.

“I was watching TV at home when I heard what seemed like gunshots and bombs exploding. I looked out of the window and was stunned to see the clash,” said a residents who requested that she not be named.

The woman said she immediately called her daughter, who was out, and asked her not to return home until normality was restored.

Salt Lake resident Sankhya Ganguly swerved his car towards Beleghata police station and parked it there after hearing bombs exploding. “I proceeded to Salt Lake only when I was sure there were enough policemen around. I took the road that runs along Subhas Sarobar,” he said.

The rival group started retaliating soon after. According to residents of Gour De Garden Lane, supporters of Chakraborty targeted houses of people known to be supporters of Naskar. Windowpanes of several houses were smashed and motorbikes damaged along with furniture and a television inside a local club called Yubak Brinda.

“I was standing on our terrace when I saw a group of men indiscriminately hurling bricks and soft drink bottles. When I shouted at them, they threw a bottle at me,” said Arpita Saha, an employee of the RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences.

The Trinamul leadership termed Sunday’s incident a clash between “antisocial” groups. “The media is labelling it as Trinamul infighting. The police have been asked to probe the incident,” urban development minister Firhad Hakim said.