May 5: A team of ministers that went to Chopra in North Dinajpur in the wake of a string of killings last week told chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today that the situation there is “peaceful” and “normal”.
At Writers’ Buildings, Bhattacharjee said he had received a report on Chopra from urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya and environment minister Manab Mukherjee but refused to divulge the contents.
Bhattacharya, a legislator from north Bengal, however, said he had briefed the chief minister on the resentment a section of people harboured against police. He accused the Congress of unleashing “terror” in the area under local leader Ashoke Roy. “The people are angry with him and blame him for the murder of our leader, Akbar Ali,” he said.
Bhattacharya said after Ali was attacked, the Congress workers guilty of the act took shelter in a police outpost. “Though the police were inactive at the onset, they took action later,” he added.
A deceptive calm enveloped violence-wracked Chopra and Islampur today, with the CPM reining in its rampaging workers for fear of postponement of the panchayat election.
State election commissioner Ajoy Sinha, however, turned down an appeal by the Congress to defer the poll in Chopra and parts of Islampur. He told a party delegation that the situation there was “under control”.
Sinha held a meeting with home secretary A.K. Deb and director-general of police D.C. Vajpai and expressed satisfaction over the pre-election law and order situation in rural Bengal.
“I spoke to the divisional commissioner of Jalpaiguri and the district magistrate of North Dinajpur. They told me the situation in Chopra is conducive for holding a peaceful election,” said Sinha. He added that deployment of Central forces “may not be necessary”.
The urban development minister refuted the Congress allegation that the CPM had unleashed a reign of terror in Chopra.
State Congress president Pranab Mukherjee had said on Saturday the violence was a fallout of a CPM-police nexus and was part of the Marxists’ ploy to “wipe out” the Opposition in Bengal.
Bhattacharya hit back at demands made by Mukherjee and Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to postpone the election. “They are saying that for a long time. They will never say that the law and order is all right during election time unless all the people become their supporters.”
Large parts of south Bengal reeled under long spells of power cuts from around 12.30 pm today after two major high-tension distribution lines from Kolaghat to Jeerut and Rengali tripped.
A state electricity board official said five units of the Kolaghat thermal power plant collapsed under the impact of the trip, leading to an immediate deficit of about 1,000 mw.
A Kolaghat unit was brought back on stream while two others are expected to begin generation tomorrow. The Kolaghat-Jeerut line has been restored.