(Clockwise from top left) Trailers on fire in the compound of Pradip Tiwari’s RK Transport Company near Avani Riverside Mall in Howrah on Friday morning; firemen spray water on a trailer of Tiwari that was set on fire on Duke Road; the charred remains of the trader’s Innova.
Pictures by Gopal Senapati
A feud between two Trinamul Congress leaders resulted in followers of one allegedly torching six vehicles of another near Avani Riverside Mall on Foreshore Road in Howrah on Friday morning.
Police sources and witnesses said supporters of Binay Singh, a Trinamul councillor in the Howrah Municipal Corporation, vandalised five trailers and an SUV of Pradip Tiwari in a sprawling compound owned by him.
The arson followed the death of Binay's younger brother Vinod, who was hit by a bullet allegedly fired by Tiwari inside the Shalimar railway yard on April 6.
Binay could not be contacted for comment despite several attempts.
Sources said that apart from being political opponents, Binay and Pradip are locked in business rivalry, both being owners of transport companies. Pradip runs RK Transport Company, while Binay is proprietor of Dayal Transport.
The drivers of several trucks parked at the Foreshore Road-Duke Road crossing said around 50 men armed with lathis and petrol raided a compound of RK Transport Company near the mall, where an Innova and three trailers were parked.
The two guards in the compound reportedly fled after seeing the gang.
"The mob first broke the windshields and glass panes of the parked vehicles and then poured petrol on them and set them on fire. The attackers then moved to a spot on Duke Road, around 200m away, where two more trailers of Tiwary were parked. They set them on fire, too," said Amit Singh, a lorry driver who said he had witnessed the arson attack.
The driver's cabins of all the five trailers, which were loaded with iron bars, were gutted. According to residents of the locality, Tiwary used to roam around the area in the Innova that was torched.
Three fire engines took two hours to douse the flames. No one was injured.
The police were "taken aback" by the sudden attack.
"We had no idea that the councillor's men would launch the attack. When officers of the local (Shibpur) police station failed to control the situation, we had to send reinforcements along with rapid action force personnel," said an officer of the Howrah commissionerate.
"We have detained a few people and are interrogating them. We will arrest the attackers soon," said Nishat Pervez, the deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, Howrah .
In the run-up to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation elections on Saturday, Calcutta has witnessed several clashes between supporters of Trinamul and opposition parties.
On Tuesday, Trinamul workers had allegedly vandalised a BJP dais in Alipore's Gopalnagar and assaulted actress-turned-BJP leader Roopa Ganguly. On Wednesday, an aide of the Trinamul candidate of Ward 1 was accused of firing in the area.
In Howrah, where no elections are scheduled for Saturday, Trinamul is rocked with internal feud over the spoils of transport business in the Shalimar railway yard, where both Singh and Tiwary are key players.
On April 6, Binay's brother Vinod and his nephew Rajesh were critically wounded in a skirmish in the Shalimar railway yard.
Binay had accused political and business rival Pradip of masterminding the attack on his brother and nephew. Pradip had lost to Binay in the Howrah Municipal Corporation elections in 2013. Binay had fought the poll on a Congress ticket and Pradip was the Trinamul candidate.
Sailesh Roy, the Trinamul councillor from Ward 29 in Howrah, said they would block "Howrah bridge and other important roads in Howrah town" on Saturday evening if the police failed to arrest the culprits by then.
A gang set two trailers on fire near the Shibpur burning ghat around 9.45pm on Friday despite the presence of a large police force in the area. Two tenders doused the flames in half an hour. "We don't know who torched the trailers," said an officer of Shibpur police station.