Asannagar, June 20: Maoist guerrillas today struck outside their bastion for the first time, gunning down in a Nadia village two tribal CPM leaders who refused to quit the party.
Clad in black combat outfits and brandishing muskets, the gang of 20 swooped on Chandpur, about 120 km from Calcutta, in the wee hours and pumped bullets into Swapan Sardar, 38, and his neighbour Uttam Sardar, 39.
The killings have shocked the CPM rank and file because this is the first time that the guerrillas have strayed outside their Bengal stronghold of Bankura, Purulia and West Midnapore.
Around 2 am, the gang ringed the houses of the duo, both members of the local CPM branch committee and dragged them out, all the while abusing them and screaming why they had not quit the CPM.
“Shala, CPM-er neta hotey chash' Ebar dekhbi CPM korar ki phol (You want to be CPM leaders' Now you will know the result of working for the CPM),” a rebel yelled before opening fire.
Uttam was the first target. Three rounds were fired on him from close range, killing him on the spot. Swapan tried to escape but was chased and caught in a jute field and bumped off.
Before melting into the darkness, the guerrillas raised slogans: “Maobad zindabad (long live Maoism), Maobadider thekiyey rakha jabena (Maoists can’t be stopped).”
A team from Kotwali police station landed in the village within 30 minutes of the strike. No arrests have been made yet.
Nadia police superintendent R. Rajshekharan said the duo had been killed because they flouted the Maoist diktat to quit the CPM before the Assembly polls.
“The guerrillas had threatened Uttam and Swapan with dire consequences if they dared disobey their order. But they disobeyed as they were strengthening the party’s organisation among local fishermen and daily labourers.”
S.M. Sadi, a district secretariat member overseeing CPM affairs in Krishnagar, said: “We are extremely worried. We want the police and the administration to take steps to ensure such incidents don’t recur. We want security to be stepped up for our party leaders and workers.”