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Birbhum killings heinous, says PM Modi; HC asks for report by 2 pm Thursday

The blaze killed eight people including three women and two children


Forensic experts collect samples from the house of Sona Sheikh where seven people were burnt to death keeping captive in their room, allegedly for avenging the killing of TMC leader Bhadu Sheikh, at Rampurhat in Birbhum district (Photo: PTI)

Press Trust of India Kolkata
The day after 8 people were burnt to death in a village in Bengal's Birbhum district, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, described the killings as heinous and said the culprits should not be forgiven.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday too vowed that strict action would be taken against the perpetrators regardless of their party colour and announced plans to visit the village of Bogtui, where some ten houses were set ablaze by throwing petrol bombs in the early hours of Tuesday in a suspected revenge attack after the slaying of a local TMC leader.
The blaze killed eight people including three women and two children. Investigations by the special investigation team set up by the state government are on and some 20 people who have been arrested.
The village of Bogtui, on the outskirts of Rampurhat town, itself had a deserted look Wednesday as many anxious residents afraid of both the violence which ripped apart their lives on Tuesday night and the fear of arrests by police seeking answers to a series of attacks and counter-attacks fled to other villages.
Those that remained had fear writ large on their faces as the smouldering remains of the houses charred by Tuesday's bombings and the blaze it lit remained poignant reminders of the wages of internecine violence that rural Bengal has been witnessing over the last few decades.
Noor Ali, 40, the brother of Bhadu Sheikh, the Trinamool Panchayat deputy chief who was killed Monday around 8.30 pm, said among the suspects picked up by the police were Sheikh's sons.
The arrival of delegations led by top politicians from the CPI(M) and BJP including Mohammed Salim, the communist party's new state unit chief and BJP's leader of the opposition Suvendu Adhikari to the village long with large hordes of television crews did not seem to instill much faith among the denizens of the village.
The delegations were however not allowed to enter the houses where the killings occurred as forensic teams were working there to collect evidence.
Speaking at a virtual event to inaugurate a gallery dedicated to freedom fighters at the Victoria Memorial here, Prime Minister Modi said the Central Government is willing to help the state in any way required in bringing perpetrators to justice and hoped the state would take steps to bring the culprits to justice quickly.
I hope that the state government will definitely ensure that those who have committed such heinous crimes are punished, Modi said.
I would also urge the people of Bengal to never forgive the perpetrators of such incidents, those who encourage such criminals. The centre would extend all sorts of help to the state government to ensure the culprits are booked, he said

The Calcutta High Court taking suo moto cognisance of the case directed the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), Delhi, to immediately collect necessary materials for forensic examination from the site and asked the state government to file a report on Tuesday's incident to it by 2 pm on Thursday.
Banerjee who vowed strict action however described the unfolding events as a conspiracy to defame her government.
"It was an attempt by the BJP, Left and the Congress to malign our government Strict action will be taken against all those responsible for the Birbhum incident, irrespective of their (political) colour, she said.
Without naming anyone, Banerjee said that the incident was orchestrated because "they failed to flare up a riot".
Opposition political parties had on Tuesday alleged that the TMC is now killing its "own people" indicating that it was the result of an intra-party feud.
"We are in power. Why would we instigate killings in the state? It is being done by those who want to create disturbance to malign the state," she queried.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar who had crossed swords with Banerjee on Tuesday in the aftermath of the incident again spoke out against the Birbhum killings and said that what happened in Bogtui is a shame on democracy and humanity.
What happened in Rampurhat is a shame on democracy and humanity," the governor told reporters after participating in the Prime Minister's programme at the Victoria Memorial Hall here.
Dhankhar on Wednesday also shot off another letter to Banerjee, claiming that the state government's actions smack of "political overtones" and an attempt to shield the guilty.
"Adopting diversionary tactics, you have labelled my reaction as a sweeping and uncalled for statement. In the face of such enormity, I cannot fiddle in Raj Bhavan and be a mute spectator," he wrote.
Banerjee was quick to the reply. Without naming Dhankar, she counter-attacked, stating: "There is one 'Lat Saheb' (lordly person) sitting who is describing Bengal as the worst state and hurling abuses at the state government."

Police officials said investigators are looking at various possible causes to the chain of events.
"We are grilling them (suspects) to find out if there were more people involved in the incident. Some accused seem to have fled the village. We are trying to trace them," an officer said.
The West Bengal government has constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by Additional Director General (CID) Gyanwant Singh, to probe the incident.
However, locals told PTI that they suspected that rivalry over sand mining was the most probable cause for the attack and counter-attack which led to the gruesome murders.
CPI(M) state secretary Mohammed Salim who met the villagers, also claimed illegal sand mining mafia played a role in the attack and sought strictest punishment for the culprits. Till about a decade back, the CPI(M) had held sway in the region and still has a handful of followers here.
A BJP delegation led by the Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari which visited the village demanded the chief minister's resignation.
"Only CBI and NIA probes can bring out the truth. She must step down as home minister of the state," Adhikari said.
A five-member BJP committee constituted by BJP president J P Nadda, which includes four MPs, will also visit the village on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the state government has removed the officer-in-charge of the local police station, a Sub-Divisional Police chief, a senior officer of the detective department as well as a district information officer of Birbhum besides 12 civic volunteers.
A report from the district administration on the carnage reached the state secretariat on Wednesday.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Mar 23 2022 | 11:37 PM IST

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