Warring parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Sunday continued to blame each other for violence in Sandeshkhali, even as bodies of three persons were recovered and several others remained ‘missing’.
The BJP tried to take the bodies of two of its supporters to party office in Kolkata from Basirhat in North 24 Parganas district, but the party leaders were stopped by police, leading to a heated exchange of words between the two sides.
The BJP leadership later decided to take the bodies to the village of the two slain party workers. Their last rites were performed at their village at night. The saffron party has called a 12-hour bandh in Basirhat on Monday and decided to observe ‘Black Day’ throughout the state, party sources said.
On Wednesday, the BJP will march to the Kolkata Police headquarters of Lalbazar to protest against the violence in Sandeshkhali, they said.
In an advisory to the West Bengal government, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs expressed “deep concern” over the continuing violence and asked it to maintain law and order. Both the state government and the ruling TMC criticised the Centre for the advisory.
Later in the night, the state government shot back a letter saying situation in the state was under control and there was no failure on part of the state’s law enforcement machinery.
Chief Medical Officer of Basirhat D Mukherjee said bodies of three persons were brought to Basirhat Hospital on Saturday night.
The bodies have been identified as that of Sukanta Mondal, Pradip Mondal and Kayoom Mollah. While Sukanta and Pradip were BJP supporters, TMC leaders said Kayoom was an active worker of their party.
State BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu Saturday said three party workers – Sukanta Mondal, Pradip Mondal and Shankar Mondal – were shot dead, while state minister Jyotipriyo Mallick maintained that TMC worker Kayoom Mollah was killed in the clash. Shankar Mondal and Debdas Mondal of Bhangipara village are missing, local BJP leaders claimed.
Police and the district administration have been tight-lipped about the incident and have not made any statement on the number of deaths.
A huge contingent of police is posted at Bhangipara village, which is under the Nyajat Police Station limits, where the clashes took place on Saturday evening during a TMC rally. Internet services have also been suspended at Nyajat.
The BJP Sunday wanted to take the bodies of two slain workers to the party state headquarters in Kolkata after the postmortem examination, but the police stopped the hearses at Minakha by blocking the state highway.
An earlier attempt of the police at Malancha to stop the party failed as the BJP workers forced their way through. “The families have given their consent (to take the bodies). The police cannot stop us like this,” state BJP president Dilip Ghosh, who was accompanying the hearses, said. “The police did not act when our people were attacked and killed and now they are not allowing us to take the bodies of our party workers,” he said.
Amid the altercation between the policemen and BJP leaders, party workers threatened to perform the last rites of the deceased men on the road and started to arrange a pyre. However, it finally did not happen.
Senior BJP leader Rahul Sinha later said since the family members of the two victims were feeling unwell, the bodies were taken back to their villages.
BJP leader Mukul Roy accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of instigating political strife through her speeches. He also claimed that five members of the saffron party were killed in the clashes and several others are missing. Speaking to reporters at the airport here on his arrival from Delhi, Roy alleged that local TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh masterminded the attack on BJP workers.