| Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee: Black tea, literally. (File picture)
Siliguri, Nov. 17: Making up for his silence over the Dalgaon massacre yesterday, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today branded former Citu leader Tarakeshwar Lohar a “dushtu lok (wicked man)” who had exploited the party to make money.
Rounding up his two-day visit to Siliguri, Bhattacharjee said: “Ami Dalgaon niye kono katha bolbo na. Ki naam jani loktar' Tarakeshwar Lohar. Lokta baje ebong dushtu. Partir namey, oshoth upaye taka tulto (I do not want to comment on the Dalgaon massacre. What is that man’s name' Tarakeshwar Lohar. The man is wicked and bad. He used the party’s name to extort money).”
The chief minister admitted that certain criminal elements had become part of the Citu in the gardens.
“We have to admit that our party organisation at Dalgaon was not strong. The massacre is an isolated incident triggered by one man, a rotten apple, who was involved in nefarious activities. He had even accepted bribes to get some outsiders employed in the garden. I have received the police report and am awaiting the party’s observations on the incident,” he said.
Bhattacharjee’s refusal to speak on Lohar or the mob fury that charred 19 people to death on November 6 had left his party leaders and supporters baffled yesterday.
Today’s statement was another effort by the CPM leadership to distance itself and its labour arm, the Citu, from Lohar. The CPM has changed its version on the former Citu leader and the Dalgaon carnage several times now.
First, it described the dead as innocent labourers and then labelled them as “anti-socials”.
Party insiders said Dalgaon dominated the two meetings the chief minister attended since yesterday.
On both occasions, Bhattacharjee is said to have warned Citu leaders against indulging in corrupt practices and making false promises to the garden labourers. At a closed-door meeting held last night, he expressed “displeasure” at the way things were being handled by the local Citu leaders.
“Anyone found guilty of such (corrupt) practices would be removed from the party. We will not tolerate anyone using the party’s name to exploit the workers. People like Lohar give a bad name to the party and its trade union wing,” Bhattacharjee said today, when asked what the CPM intended to do with leaders like Lohar.
The chief minister, who reviewed the law and order situation with the police brass earlier this morning, said: “In view of increased militant activities in the region, we have decided to provide the security forces with state-of-the-art weapons, surveillance and communication gadgets.”
Iterating the government’s resolve to weed out militancy from the region, Bhattacharjee said: “Enough is enough, we will no longer tolerate any form of violence. Let the militants surrender and we will take up the responsibility of rehabilitating them.”