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Since 1st March, 1999
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Front partners clash with guns in Basanti

Calcutta, Jan. 4: At least 20 people were injured when Left Front partners CPM and RSP clashed over control of a water pump in South 24-Parganas’ Basanti this morning.

Seventeen people hit by bomb splinters and pellets were brought to Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital. They are all RSP supporters and residents of Nirdeshkhali village, 200km from Calcutta.

Five of them underwent surgeries, the hospital said.

Salim Ahmed Pyada, 14, whose Madhyamik exam is less than two months away, was taking tuition at a coaching class when hit. “The pellet has been taken out of his left leg and his condition is stable,” a doctor said.

Salim said three other children were hurt, but their injuries “may not be serious”.

Moinuddin Pyada, 30, is under observation with a pellet in his skull.

Police said that according to the custom at Nirdeshkhali, the owner of the land on which a pump had been installed decided who operated it. “In this case, the land was donated by Rauf Ali Pyada, a CPM supporter who recently switched loyalties to the RSP. But the CPM-led gram panchayat gave the job to a CPM leader’s son. The RSP had been protesting,” an officer said.

Moinuddin accused CPM supporters of attacking them. “We were extracting rice from paddy in the bazaar around 6am when a group of men started firing. I regained consciousness at the Basanti hospital.”

District police chief Ajay Ranade said CPM and RSP supporters had accused each other of starting the clash.

Fearing a blow to the front’s image only months away from the Lok Sabha elections, CPM district secretary Shanti Bhattacharya spoke to his RSP counterpart Subhas Naskar. “We have decided not to politicise today’s clash but treat it as one among two groups of villagers,” Bhattacharya said.

Naskar, the irrigation minister and local MLA, refused comment. A party leader who did not want to be named said: “There is no front unity in Basanti because of the CPM’s big brotherly attitude.”

Basanti is an RSP stronghold with the party controll- ing nine of its 13 panchayats. The CPM has three. After the rural poll results were decla- red last May, Naskar’s nephew’s house was set ablaze about 15 km from Nirdeshkhali.

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