The Islampur town in North Dinajpur district wore a deserted look on Sunday as the BJP observed a 12-hour strike in protest against the murder of a youth leader by an alleged extortionist.
Heavy police deployments were made to maintain law and order as private transport remained off the roads and shops downed shutters.
Ashim Saha, 28, a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), was attacked allegedly by Mohammad Sahil on Saturday.
Sahil had reached the garment shop of Ratan Saha at Bijhatti in the town and was trying to extort money from him. Ashim, Ratan’s nephew, voiced his protest, which made Sahil hack the BJP leader with a dagger multiple times.
Ashim suffered serious injuries and was taken to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in Siliguri. Later, he was shifted to a private nursing home where he succumbed to his injuries.
After the incident, police nabbed Sahil.
BJP leaders and workers soon resorted to protests. Representatives of the local business fraternity asked how a criminal had entered a garment showroom and demanded money from the trader.
The BJP announced a 12-hour strike in Islampur on Sunday.
The police had been patrolling different areas of the town since Sunday morning. The BJP workers raised a blockade on NH27 at Shivdangi in Islampur where they burnt tyres and shouted slogans, alleging that Saha had been murdered by a goon backed by the Trinamul Congress.
A police team arrived and asked the bandh supporters to clear the highway. The protesters refused and entered into a heated exchange of words with police officers. The blockade was lifted after an hour.
State BJYM president Indranil Khan reached Islampur on Sunday and met Saha’s family members.
“One of our youth leaders was murdered in broad daylight by criminals. The attackers extorted money from people and yet, the police didn’t take any action against them. We suspect they have links with Trinamul. The police should take stern steps or else, we will intensify our movement,” said Khan.
Later in the day, a delegation of local traders submitted a memorandum addressed to the superintendent of police of Islampur police district. They expressed concern over the security of the business fraternity and common people in the town.
The police said they had intervened immediately after the attack on the merchant. “Preliminary probe suggests the incident happened because of a monetary dispute. There is no political element in it. We arrested attacker Mohammad Sahil within a couple of hours,” said Kartick Chandra Mondal, the additional superintendent of police of the Islampur police district.
Sahil was produced in a court in Islampur on Sunday and remanded in eight days of police custody. The police are in search of Mohammad Toufiq, who had also allegedly tried to extort money from the cloth merchant, sources said.
Trinamul leaders rejected the BJP's charge. “We don’t have any link with the murder. The police are probing the case and we believe the truth will come out,” said a Trinamul leader.