By Akhlad Khan – Twitter: @BawaNaaved
At least eight people were charred to death in eastern India’s West Bengal state, in an alleged arson attack to avenge the death of a village leader.
Reports suggest that more than seven houses were locked and set ablaze on Monday night in Birbhum district’s Rampurhat village after Bahadur Sheikh, a leader associated with the CM Mamta Banerjee led state’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) party, was found dead.
Fire department officials retrieved seven bodies from the burnt houses, while one person succumbed to their injuries later in hospital.
Local sources sTated that the victims of the UNPRECEDENTED “revenge killing” included children and women.
The charred bodies were found on Tuesday morning at Rampurhat village in Birbhum, hours after a mob set houses on fire in protests over the alleged murder of a Trinamool Congress leader, Bhadu Sheikh. Seven members of one family were found all dead in their burnt homes.
Police said, the body of Bahadur Sheikh, the TMC panchayat deputy chief of Barshal village, was found in the area on Monday. Further investigation is underway.
Speaking on the incident, West Bengal DGP Manoj Malviya said, “An hour after the news of the murder of TMC leader Bahadur Sheikh last night, 7-8 nearby houses were set on fire. 11 people were arrested in alleged relation to the incident. The concerned SDPO and Rampurhat Incharge were consequently dismissed from their post.”
This morning, 7 bodies were recovered from one of the burnt houses. Initially, 10 deaths were reported but the numbers were incorrect, a total of 8 people have died. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been constituted,” he added.
The deceased have been identified as Jahan Aara (38), Lili Khatoon (18), Shelly Bibi (32), Nurnehar Bibi (52), Rupali bibi (39), Qazi Rehman (22), Tuli khatoon (7), Meena bibi (40).
The massacre, which has put the Mamta Banerjee led TMC government in a tight spot, unfolded at Boktui village in Rampurhat after a gang of four alleged masked assailants riding two motorcycles hurled bombs on upa pradhan (deputy chief) Bhadu Sheikh of Boroshal gram panchayat, at a tea stall on Monday evening.
Sheikh was pronounced dead upon arrival at hospital. State DGP Manoj Malviya ruled out “any political angle” and hinted at “personal enmity” behind the murder. The victim’s family accused fellow members of his party of killing him over an internal feud after the murder of his brother Babar last year.
According to a report published BY the ‘Deccan Chronicle’, within an hour of Sheikh’s murder his followers retaliated, SETTING at least seven-eight houses on fire after locking in the residents from outside.
Azizul Haque, an official of the Rampurhat fire station, told the media that three charred bodies were recovered on Monday night while seven more were found at a house early Tuesday. The list of victims which include women and children, is yet to be identified due to severe burns.
Malviya said, “At night three injured persons were admitted to hospital. One of them succumbed to injuries later. Besides this, seven bodies were recovered on Tuesday from one of the burnt houses owned by Sanju Sheikh. Altogether eight were dead. 11 persons were arrested.”
TMC district president Anubrata Mondal claimed, “A fire broke out in 3-4 houses after a TV set exploded due to a short circuit. Seven people died in the incident. The fire brigade were pressed into service immediately to douse the flames. The police are investigating the incident.” He however suspected a link between the massacre and the TMC leader’s killing.
However, the State transport minister Firhad Hakim, who visited Boktui along with two TMC MLAs– Asish Banerjee of Rampurhat and Avijit Singha of Bolpur– on their party supremo’s order, alleged a “conspiracy by some people trying to malign Bengal” behind the bloodbath.