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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Bogtui revisited: Site for massacre now faces turf war between rival parties

The 1,200-odd population of Bogtui in Birbhum district, once known as a Trinamul fortress, is undecided on voting as some are advocating the need to bring about change while others are advocating a status quo

PTI Bogtui (Birbhum) Published 06.07.23, 11:16 AM
A damaged house at Bogtui village, in Birbhum district.

A damaged house at Bogtui village, in Birbhum district. File picture

After almost a year and a half, Bogtui which shot into national headlines after a chilling massacre, still carries its gory baggage even as it heads into the latest celebration of democracy – a statewide rural polls to be held on July 8.

There is still an air of despondency in this village which has been deserted by large numbers of its youth, ostensibly in search of jobs elsewhere but possibly also to escape the vendetta war between gangs which many fear may yet break out.

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The 1,200-odd population of Bogtui in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, once known as a Trinamool Congress fortress, is undecided on voting as some are advocating the need to bring about “badal” (change), while others are advocating a status quo.

The indecision means a renewal of the turf war between rivals TMC and BJP in an area where the majority of the population are from the minority community.

On March 21 last year, 10 people including a girl were killed when miscreants hurled bombs at houses here after the murder of local TMC leader Bhadu Sheikh.

“We do not feel safe here. There is always a fear that a similar violence may recur… Not a single TMC leader has visited Bogtui in the months since the massacre. They are not even bothered to know whether we are alive," 78-year-old Iyar Ali, a resident of Bogtui, said.

He was echoed by 58-year-old Tumpa Khatun, who alleged, "Bhadu tortured us for years. His wrongdoings were backed by the administration and police. Our complaints were never heard.” The hamlet has an ageing population as many young men and women have migrated to bigger cities in search of jobs.

The vacuum created by TMC’s disappearance from the area after the massacre has given an opportunity to rival BJP to step in.

The saffron party has fielded Merina Bibi, once a TMC supporter, as its candidate for the gram panchayat, Seema Khatun for the panchayat samiti and Kabita Murmu for the zilla parishad.

Seema is the daughter-in-law of Jahanara Bibi, who was killed in the massacre, while Merina is the mother of one of those arrested in connection with the mass murder. The fielding of these two women seems to be a strategic decision, given the fact that most people in the village are related to these two families.

However, many say the credit for bringing BJP into the village goes to Mihilal Shiekh, a man who lost his wife, daughter and mother in last year's killing.

Mihilal switched loyalties to the saffron camp after BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari assured him of "justice".

"Suvendu da has been quite affectionate towards us … I believe that the BJP is the only party that can do good for us," he told PTI.

"TMC has become synonymous with corruption, scam, stealing funds and cheating the common man. People have realised it... This time it will be quite a difficult task for them to continue here," BJP leader Subhasish Chowdhury told PTI.

The TMC, which is strong in most parts of Birbhum district, feels the game is not yet lost at Bogtui.

“There is no question of BJP winning. People are with us,” said Trinamool Congress leader Syed Siraj Jimmi.

“People know that it is Mamata Banerjee who is a true mass leader and what she has done for the development of the area,” he said.

Congress is not fighting the polls here but supporting the CPI(M), which was the strongest party in the district till TMC ousted it in 2011.

By Sudipto Chowdhury

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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