Bengal firing: Village tense, Mamata meets locals

Saturday, January 8, 2011

LALGARH - Police raids were on in Netai village near this Maoist hub in West Bengal Saturday a day after seven people were shot dead and 12 wounded allegedly by Marxist-backed assailants.

Groups of villagers were seen huddled together, mourning the deaths, while anxiety was writ large on the faces of those whose family members lay critically injured in hospitals.

Around noon, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee went round the village. She is slated to hold a meeting later three km from the site of violence.

Nobody went to the fields to nurse the mustard, wheat and potato crops sown a month back. The wage labourers, for whom it is the peak season, remained in their houses.

However, in a departure from the usual trend of villagers leaving their houses and shifting elsewhere till the situation turned normal, Netai residents chose to stay put.

“Where will we go? What will happen will happen,” said a villager, sitting under a tree in the West Midnapore district spot, about 200 km west of Kolkata.

Seven of the critically injured were rushed to the states premier hospital SSKM Friday night, while ten others were being treated at the Midnapore Medical College and Hospital in district headquarters Midnapore town.

A large posse of policemen arrived in the village Saturday morning and were seen interrogating the villagers to ascertain details of the incident.

As heavy police patrolling continued, Trianmool Congress leader Mrigen Maity alleged several villagers were still missing after the incident that has sent shockwaves across the state.

According to eyewitnesses, the incident took place when hundreds of villagers surrounded a camp of armed Communist Party of India-Marxist (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.

While the ruling CPI-M has denied its involvement in the shooting, union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has summoned Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to New Delhi at the earliest. Chidambaram said eight people had died and 20 were injured, calling it a “grave incident”.

In a strongly worded statement, Governor M.K. Narayanan called it a “day of sorrow and shame” and asked the state government “to act decisively”.

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

Traffic movement was disrupted in Kolkata as Congress workers blocked major roads, while Trinamool activists are slated to stage a demonstration.

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