Seven killed in Bengal firing, CPI-M blamed (Roundup)

Friday, January 7, 2011

LALGARH - At least seven people were shot dead and 12 wounded allegedly by Marxist-backed assailants near this Maoist hub in West Bengal Friday, prompting union Home Minister P. Chidambaram to summon Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to New Delhi.

Amid allegations that the killers were sheltered in a camp set up by the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which denied its involvement, Governor M.K. Narayanan called it a “day of sorrow and shame” and asked the state government “to act decisively”.

The killings took place in Netai village in West Midnapore district.

Home Secretary G.D. Gautama ruled out the involvement of Maoist guerillas and said the incident was a fallout of political tension between the CPI-M and the Trinamool Congress in the area, about 200 km west of Kolkata.

Chidambaram said eight people had died and 20 were injured, calling it a “grave incident”.

“I have written a letter to the chief minister and drawn his attention to this grave incident and requested him to kindly reschedule all his appointments and visit Delhi as early as possible,” Chidambaram told reporters in New Delhi.

According to eyewitnesses, the incident took place when hundreds of villagers surrounded a camp of armed CPI-M cadres housed in local leader Ranjit Dandapadhay’s house.

The CPI-M cadres then opened fire, the villagers alleged.

“At least 20 people were injured, of whom eight sustained critical injuries. Later, seven people, including a woman, succumbed to their injuries,” a villager and Trinamool Congress supporter said on condition of anonymity.

He alleged that the CPI-M set up the camp to shelter armed cadres and ordered the villagers to provide food and send their children to the camp so that they could be trained to fight Maoists at night.

Hospital sources said a woman, identified as Phoolkumari Maity, and a man, Sourab Ghorui, died while being taken to hospital. Dhrubu Goswami and Anup Sen succumbed to their injuries in hospital.

Three men - Shambhunath Ghorui, Dhiren Sen and Kabul Patro - died on the spot.

Additional Director General of Police Surojit Kar Purakayastha said in Kolkata two people had been arrested.

West Midnapore Additional Superintendent of Police (headquarters) Sukesh Jain said the injured have been admitted to Midnapore Medical College and Hospital.

In a strongly worded statement, Governor Narayanan said he was “deeply disturbed, saddened and concerned” over the killing of so many persons” and regretted that even mothers and daughters were not spared.

“I will look into the matter in more details in consultation with the chief minister”.

The Trinamool Congress shot off letters to Home Minister P. Chidambaram and the Central Election Commission while state Congress chief Manas Bhunia demanded Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s resignation over the incident.

The Trinamool Congress has called a 12-hour shutdown in West Midnapore and East Midnapore districts Saturday to protest the killings.

Expressing outrage, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee rushed to Midnapore town to visit the injured. She is to go to Lalgarh Saturday.

Speaking at a pre-scheduled rally in central Kolkata, Banerjee instructed her supporters to stage silent sit-in demonstrations on all roads by tying black cloth on their faces Saturday.

The CPI-M district leadership said there were no party camp in the area. CPI-M minister and local leader Sushanta Ghosh alleged the Trinamool Congress brought goons from outside to capture the village.

When the villagers opposed, they fired at them, killing seven people, “including a local committee member of our party”. The party would observe “condemnation day” Saturday.

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