Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari on Thursday met the families of Ajit Mahato and Mohit Mahato, two representatives of the Kurmi community who had been arrested for allegedly mounting an attack on the convoy of Trinamul Congress general-secretary Abhishek Banerjee.
Adhikari accused the state government of acting in vengeance and behaving in a partisan manner against tribal communities and promised to provide legal assistance to those two families.
According to sources, the BJP and Adhikari think that the arrests have the potential to break the tribal support that Trinamul received in the 2021 Assembly polls. By virtue of his experience of working in tribal-dominated areas of West Midnapore and Jhargram for a long time, the Nandigram MLA was the BJP's immediate choice to lead an anti-Trinamul campaign amongst Kurmis.
“During the times of the CPM, they will pick up any tribal individual, be it Mahato, Soren, or Tudu, and put him behind bars. Mamata Banerjee’s government is doing the same thing. This is an example of a rich person from Calcutta oppressing the poor tribal community,” Adhikari said after his meeting with the families in Jhargram.
“The police should have identified the culprit through video footage and then arrested them. Randomly picking up innocent people, getting inside their houses, and wreaking havoc is unfair,” he said, adding that he would provide for the ration of these families since their only earning members had been taken into custody.
So far 10 people, including Rajesh, the state chief of the Adivasi Kurmi Samaj, have been arrested in connection with the attack on May 26 in which the car of junior minister Birbaha Hansda was ransacked.
The Jhargarm Lok Sabha constituency contributed to the BJP’s unexpected electoral mandate from Bengal in 2019. BJP’s Kunar Hembram defeated Trinamul’s Birbaha Soren by 11,767 votes.
However, it took two years for Mamata’s party to regain ground in this district.
Although Dilip Ghosh, BJP’s national vice president, had indulged in an altercation with the Kurmis briefly, other key leaders of the party such as the state president Sukanta Majumdar and Adhikari have stood by the community’s protest. Majumdar even apologised to the Kurmis on behalf of Ghosh.
Adhikari claimed that adivasis, especially Kurmis, had voted for Trinamul in 2021 because Mamata had promised to fulfil their demand. He alleged that post the elections, the chief minister had gone back on her word.
“This situation has been created by Mamata Banerjee...She has always tried to pit the Adivasis against the Kurmis...I am always with the poor,” he said. He said that he would also visit the family of another arrested Kurmi leader Rajesh Mahato as well.
Trinamul’s state secretary Kunal Ghosh said that the Nandigram MLA was siding with those who had attacked the convoy. “The question is why he should not be brought under investigation for patronising the culprits? Those who have been arrested are not innocent and have been found guilty in the investigation,” he said.
The Kurmis have been agitating in demand for an ST tag since April.