Two dead in Bhatpara violence, prohibitory orders imposed

Kolkata: A fresh flare-up of violence at Bhatpara in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district claimed two lives and left four others injured while the police had to open fire on Thursday, prompting the administration to impose prohibitory orders in the affected areas.

“Two persons have died… the officers are deciding on the further course of action. The cause of their deaths is a matter of investigation. Our officers had fired in the air,” state Director General of Police Virendra told reporters.

Six police officers were injured, he said, adding that no one has been arrested yet.

BJP MP Arjun Singh alleged that the deceased was shot in the head by the police “from point-blank range” while six others received bullet injuries.

As per sources in the local hospital and inputs from residents of the area, the two who died are Ram Babu Shaw and Dharambir Shaw. Both succumbed to bullet injuries. All four injured are in critical condition.

Shaw’s neighbour claimed police had opened fire first.

“The area has been violent for days. Someone has to take responsibility for the deaths of these men,” Shaw’s neighbour said.

Even other residents of Bhatpara and Kakinara Bazar blamed the police for opening fire leading to the deaths and injuries. Many believed had the police taken prior steps, the violence could have been avoided.

According to locals, miscreants resorted to bombings and also fired at each other. The police opened fire after use of tear gas shells failed to quell the violence. Police have recovered some arms and crude bombs from the area.

The violence erupted on a day the new Bhatpara police station was scheduled to be inaugurated by the DGP. But such was the ferocity of the clash that he returned midway and rushed to the state Secretariat, Nabanna where the government called an urgent meeting to tackle the violence.

While newly-appointed state Home Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay announced after the meeting that the new police station has become functional, Virendra later returned to Bhatpara with more reinforcements and reviewed the situation with senior police officers.

“West Bengal government is taking a serious view in regards to the deterioration of law and order situation in areas like Jagaddal, Bhatpara and other places under the Barrackpore police commissionerate.

“Section 144 (of the Criminal Procedure Code) has been imposed in areas under Bhatpara, Jagaddal police station and adjoining places. All efforts are being made to restore normalcy in the area,” Bandyopadhyay said.

The Rapid Action Force has been deployed and fresh police reinforcements sent to the area, which has been volatile for over a month now, largely due to clashes between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Trinamool Congress for political dominance.

“A new police station has been opened in Bhatpara. Route marches will be conducted and ADG, South Bengal Sanjay Singh has been sent to the spot, giving him special charge,” he said.

Bandopadhyay claimed that some anti-socials are active in the area and some outsiders are also joining them resulting in the disruption of normal law and order situation.

“Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other officers are looking into the matter with utmost seriousness,” he said.

As the locals voiced dissatisfaction over the role of the police officer, leaders of both BJP and Trinamool resorted to a political blame game.

“Since I am in Delhi, the police have allowed some Trinamool activists to do all this. They (the police) are a mute witness to looting and violence over the last three days. They are giving a free hand to them (Trinamool activists) and the total gameplan has been hatched by the police. Seven people have been shot and one deceased was shot in his head,” Singh said.

On the other hand, Trinamool leader Madan Mitra said that Bhatpara has been witnessing violence for over a month. “It is sad that Arjun Singh said that the person died after being shot by the police while the officers have said that they fired the bullets in the air,” he said.

“BJP resorts to the politics of violence. Even if the administration tries to control the situation, they are targeting those officers who are risking their lives to restore peace in the area,” he added.