The Telegraph
Tuesday , July 15 , 2014
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Vice-like grip of syndicates

- Trinamul rivalry across town fuels clashes over business spoils

At the heart of a Trinamul faction fight in Beleghata that sees bombs being exploded almost every other day is a tussle between an established player in the supply of construction materials and a newbie desperate for a foothold in the lucrative business.

Two bombs were hurled at a rally called by a Trinamul faction on Sunday evening to protest the rise in criminal activities in the area.

The previous Sunday, bombs and bricks rained on the Rashmoni Bazaar area, scaring residents indoors. “I had to ask my daughter not to return home from tuition and myself skipped a wedding invitation in the neighbourhood and stayed indoors,” said a homemaker, recalling the July 5 fight.

The resident of Beleghata Main Road said she had seen from her third-floor window men hurling bombs.

Since that day, residents said, there have been three instances of bombs being hurled.

The rivalry

Sources said the warring Trinamul factions are being led by Raju Naskar and Shankar Chakraborty. While Chakraborty is apparently backed by local MLA Paresh Pal, Naskar seems to enjoy the patronage of Jiban Saha, a councillor of the neighbouring ward.

According to Trinamul sources, Saha has gained prominence with the support of a Trinamul MP.

Naskar and Chakraborty were named in the FIRs filed in connection with the July 6 fight but neither has been arrested.

Pal, however, claimed he knew neither Chakraborty nor Naskar. “Do not drag any of my party workers into the dispute. None of them was involved in the clashes in the area,” said Pal.

Saha, on the other hand, said he knew Naskar but denied his men were involved in the clash. “It is not my ward. I know nothing about the clash or the promoting business in the area,” said Saha.

The rise

Naskar and Chakraborty started their careers as roadside vendors and climbed up the ladder after the area started witnessing a realty boom. With the arrival of big projects, both got involved in syndicates controlling the supply of building materials.

Sources said Naskar in his early days had sold popcorn and tickets on premium outside Alochhaya cinema in Beleghata. He used to live in a slum at Gandhi Nagar. “Naskar was arrested for allegedly breaking rail wagons and even charged with attempt to murder after one of his associates was injured in a brawl,” said a police officer.

After coming out of jail, Naskar started driving a taxi. Soon after, residents said, he became a CPM tough in the area. After Trinamul came to power, he was allegedly handpicked by Saha. Sources said the syndicate business and Trinamul support saw Saha emerge as a leading developer in the area with six residential projects, including one at the site of Alochhaya cinema.

Beleghata residents remember Chakraborty as a seller of lottery tickets who later joined the Forward Bloc. “He was known as Kanpuriya Shankar because he used to carry a kanpuriya — a short knife,” recounted a resident.

Chakraborty joined Trinamul with mentor Montu Sanyal, a former councillor, shortly after the party was formed. His stakes in the party rose following Sanyal’s death in 2008 and his sway over the area was unchallenged till Naskar surfaced.

The modus operandi

Beleghata resident Sanjay Harlalka (name changed) was planning to sell his one-storeyed house on a three-cottah plot last year and move into an apartment.

A local Trinamul leader who doubles as a land broker got in touch with him and negotiations started. But as the broker failed to come up with a lucrative deal, Sanjay started getting in touch with prospective buyers on his own.

Within a couple of weeks, a reservoir of drinking water with taps came up in front of the main gate of the house. With the entrance blocked, the prime property suddenly became unattractive to buyers.

Sources said the construction of the reservoir was the handiwork of one of the Trinamul factions.

Another resident, Akash Bhimani (name changed), had been receiving calls threatening him to vacate his rented apartment. A man apparently close to the local Trinamul MLA has bought the building and wants to raze it and construct a multi-storeyed structure in its place. A few scared tenants have left the place while a few others like Akash are planning to do so.

Both incidents occurred in Kankurgachhi, an upscale neighbourhood in east Calcutta.

The construction boom in the Kankurgachhi-Phoolbagan-Beleghata belt in east Calcutta has robbed landlosers of the area of peace.

“Henchmen of politicians of the ruling party are on the prowl, coercing landowners into selling their properties. First they make an offer which is so bad that it is not acceptable. Then they will issue threats. Ultimately one is forced to sell the property,” said a businessman, who owns a house in Kankurgachhi.

The PP factor

A developer in Kankurgachhi said over 80 projects were coming up in the area, most of them near Bengal Chemicals on Maniktala Main Road, and around Pantaloons, Haryana Sweets and Rose Restaurant on CIT Road in Phoolbagan.

“Almost 90 per cent of these are big-ticket residential projects, where prices vary between Rs 8,000 and Rs 12,000 per sq ft,” he developer said.

The areas fall under the Beleghata Assembly constituency where people say the writ of MLA Paresh Pal — PP to many — runs large.

Property developers Metro spoke to said no construction activity in the area could be planned without considering the PP factor.

The MLA has denied the allegation but promoters in the area have a different version. “From brokering land deals to providing construction materials, Pal’s men control almost every aspect of the realty business in the area,” said a promoter, who refused to be named for obvious reasons.