Bengal’s turf war explodes - Cops bombed in BJP vs TMC
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- Published 25.10.14
Bolpur, Oct. 24: A group of villagers today hurled bombs and brickbats to beat back a police squad hunting for explosives in Birbhum, blowing the lid off a turf war between the Trinamul and the BJP in an erstwhile Left bastion.
At least five policemen, including the officer-in-charge of Parui police station and the circle inspector of Bolpur, were injured this afternoon in the attack that was launched by alleged BJP supporters to thwart a raid for bombs at Choumondalpur village in Birbhum’s Parui.
Such was the ferocity of the attack that the OC, Prosenjit Dutta, fell and lay on the ground for almost a minute before his heavily outnumbered and fleeing team picked him up and retreated.
A bomb — a part of the daily narrative in Bengal ever since one blew up on two suspected assemblers in Burdwan on October 2 — caught the OC in the back but his life was saved because it did not explode on impact.
Birbhum is the playground of Anubrata Mondal, the controversial Trinamul district president certified as a “very good boy” by the chief minister and known for exhorting his supporters to bomb the police if they go to the aid of dissidents when their houses are burned down.
Against such an intimidating backdrop, Choumondalpur came under the BJP’s tutelage because most CPM supporters, who had crossed over to Trinamul after the 2011 Assembly polls, went over to the BJP along with older Trinamul activists. The crossovers effectively made it “a BJP village”.
Over the past two days, Trinamul activists were trying to regain control of the village, triggering charges of attacks and counter-attacks.
Today, the ruling Trinamul and the BJP, which is striving to fill the vacuum left by the CPM in Bengal, were quick to blame each other.
The state police echoed the ruling party and named a BJP leader who had switched over from Trinamul after the Lok Sabha polls.
The sequence of events points to a vicious cycle of “your-bomb-versus-my-bomb” confrontation in which the police have been reduced to a pawn — or a collateral casualty.
On a tip-off in the morning, the police found 14 plastic containers with as many as 500 crude bombs on the premises of a health centre run by the state government. The containers were kept in an abandoned quarter 30 metres from the main health centre building in Sattor.
Suspicion fell on Trinamul supporters although the party denied any hand.
A few hours later, the police received a tip-off, reportedly from a Trinamul leader, that bombs were hidden in a poultry farm at Choumondalpur, the “BJP village”.
On the way to the poultry farm, the dozen-strong police team received another alert —the third in a matter of hours — of a cache at another place. The police made a quick search of the place but did not find any explosives.
It was after leaving this place and while heading to the poultry farm that the police squad ran into the enraged villagers.
An officer said: “The villagers told us that there were no bombs and asked us to search Trinamul offices and recover the bombs there first. When we warned them that we would use force to raid the poultry farm, nearly 100 villagers surrounded us.”
When the attack was launched, “we decided to retreat as we were outnumbered”, the officer recounted. “We were running towards our vehicles when bombs were hurled at us. The OC fell. The vehicles had started. Two policemen picked him up and put him in one of the SUVs.”
Rafiqul Sheikh, the driver of the OC’s vehicle, said: “We could have been killed. Our OC fell and lay on the ground for nearly a minute. A bomb hit him in the back but did not explode.”
OC Dutta has been admitted to the Suri Sadar hospital with injuries in his head, neck and spinal cord. The others were released after first aid.
The OC said from his hospital bed over phone: “We had to run away because the villagers attacked us with bombs.”
Later, a bigger police force raided the village and arrested four BJP supporters and detained 10.
Birbhum Trinamul chief Anubrata said: “The attack was led by local BJP leader Sadai Sheikh.”
Inspector-general of police (law and order) Anuj Sharma said: “Some miscreants led by a BJP leader named Sadai hurled bricks and bombs at the police party.”
Sadai, who was with Trinamul before the general election, said: “When I joined the BJP, many villagers also did so. Today Trinamul activists came to the village with the police, and the villagers resisted. We did not hurl bombs.”
SP Alok Rajoria blamed BJP supporters for the attack and said it was pre-planned.
Birbhum BJP president Dudh Kumar Mondal claimed that since “Trinamul supporters in the village have switched over to the BJP, they are using the police to harass the villagers. The villagers were angry but they did not hurl bombs. Trinamul activists did so.”
A senior police officer summed up: “In this particular case, the BJP supporters are responsible. But from our sources we have learnt that the bombs at the health centre were hidden by Trinamul supporters. Then Trinamul activists tipped off the police that bombs are hidden by BJP supporters at Choumondalpur.”
Malay Mukherjee, a vice-president of Trinamul in Birbhum, said: “Our party supporters did not hide the bombs in the health centre.”