Fresh tension erupted in Kaliaganj of North Dinajpur after a youth died in alleged police firing on Wednesday night, prompting the BJP to call a 12-hour strike across north Bengal on Friday.
The back-to-back violence this week in Kaliaganj over a 17-year-old girl's death last week has made the district administration clamp prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC across the block.
The state home department has also stopped internet services in the area from Thursday to April 30.
Mrityunjoy Barman, 33, a resident of Chandga village in Radhikapur of Kaliaganj block, died after a bullet hit his chest on Wednesday night.
A bullet at the spot where Mrityunjoy was shot
Mrinal, Mrityunjoy's brother, said that a police team had reached their village in search of Bishnu Barman, one of their relatives and a BJP member of Kaliaganj panchayat samiti, for his alleged role in the violence that erupted in Kaliaganj town on Tuesday, and when a mob, armed with sticks and sharp weapons, had allegedly had attacked policemen.
“Bishnu was not at home. The police detained his elderly father, so his family raised an alert. As we stay nearby, my brother went out and asked the police why they were taking Bishnu's father away with them. The policemen opened fire at my brother. He was hit in his chest and died on the spot,” said Mrinal.
The deceased, sources in the village said, used to work at a private construction firm in Siliguri. He had come home with his family a few days ago to attend a wedding.
Jyotsna, his mother, was inconsolable.
“The police have killed my son. I want justice. He went to help others and was shot dead,” the mother cried.
Residents alleged that as Mrityunjoy collapsed on the ground, the police team, who reportedly came to the village in three vehicles, left the place without helping.
His family members and neighbours rushed him to the local hospital in Kaliaganj where doctors pronounced the youth dead.
“The police didn’t even bother to pick him then.... But today (Thursday), they came and took his body to Raiganj for post-mortem without informing us even though we were there at the hospital,” said a villager.
On Tuesday, when the joint forum of tribals and Rajbanshis had organised the protest march, no one from the village, including Bishnu, went to join the event, the villagers claimed on Thursday.
Contacted, Krishna Barman, a Trinamul member of the local panchayat, also supported this claim.
“We had a marriage in the village and all of us were busy with the preparations for it. No one from our village went to the march. Even then, the police raided our village and killed the youth without provocation,” said Krishna.
BJP leaders reacted to the firing. Debashree Chaudhuri, the BJP MP of Raiganj, held a sit-in demonstration at Siliguri More, a prominent junction in Raiganj town, in protest.
“We have called a 12-hour general strike in north Bengal tomorrow (Friday) to protest the killing. The police are following the chief minister’s instructions and arresting BJP supporters and leaders. So far, 65 supporters of our party have been arrested though none was present at the site of the violence in Kaliaganj,” she said.
Trinamul leaders accused the BJP of playing politics.
“We will oppose the strike. The BJP is playing politics over dead bodies and trying to foment tension in the state. We want life to be normal across the region on Friday,” said Trinamul state general secretary Kunal Ghosh.
Calls made by this newspaper to the North Dinajpur SP Sana Akhtar as well as other senior police officers of the district went unanswered on Thursday.
Calcutta High Court on Thursday directed the state to table a comprehensive report on the incident of the death of a 17-year-old girl in North Dinajpur within 15 days.
Justice Rajasekhar Mantha, who issued the order, asked the state to produce the video recording of the post-mortem of the victim's body on May 2, when the petition demanding a CBI probe and compensation to the victim's family would be heard.
The lawyer appearing for the state said that the girl's family members did not help the police in the investigation.
“They were unwilling to hand over the body. Four policemen forcefully collected the body from their possession. The post-mortem report reveals that the victim committed suicide and there was no mark of rape on the body,” claimed the lawyer.
The lawyer appearing for the girl’s family said they had no faith in the police.
A photograph showing four policemen dragging the body was placed before the court, which made the state’s lawyer assert that the quartet had been suspended.
The lawyer for the family sought a fresh post-mortem, which the court turned down.
On Thursday evening, it was learned that the police have arrested 19 more persons in connection with Tuesday’s violence at Kaliaganj. Earlier, 32 persons had been arrested.
Among these 19 persons include Saben Barman, the 75-year-old father of Bishnu Barman, the panchayat samiti member of the BJP.
All of them were produced at the local court in Raiganj and were sent to judicial custody for 14 days.
In another development, the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes has sent notices to the additional director general of police (NB), the district magistrate, and the superintendent of police of North Dinajpur, asking them to appear before the commission in connection with the death of the girl in the district.