In political clashes after eight people were burned alive by rioters in a village in Birbhum Bengal, Mamata Banerjee will today visit the area. The Chief Minister has been accused by the BJP opposition of chairing the complete collapse of law and order in the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday described the killing as “disgusting” and said those responsible for it should not be forgiven.
Eight people, including three women and two children, were locked in their homes and burned alive by rioters on Tuesday in what is believed to be retaliation after a local Trinamool Congress leader was killed in a raw bomb attack. The charred bodies were found a day later, mostly belonging to one family.
Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday vowed stern action, “regardless of political color”, and announced that he would visit the village of Bogtui, the scene of the horrific incident.
The state government has set up a special investigation team and about 20 people have been detained. However, the BJP has demanded a central investigation, the removal of the Chief Minister and a Presidential Regulation.
Yesterday, the Calcutta High Court acted and said not enough was done to arrest those responsible for the attack, and ordered the state government to protect witnesses and install CCTV cameras at the site. The court also asked the state government to file a report on the incident at 2pm today.
Several policemen were in a village on the outskirts of Rampurhat, where many residents had fled, fearing retaliation or arrest. 10 houses burned quietly.
Violence escalated after the assassination of Trinamool Panchayat deputy chief Bhadu Sheikh. According to the PTI news agency, his son was among the suspects detained by the police.
Since Tuesday, several political leaders, mainly from the BJP, have visited the village with TV crews.
PM Modi said his government was ready to help the state in any way to bring the accused to justice.
“I hope the state government will definitely ensure that those who commit such heinous crimes are punished,” Modi said.
“I also urge the people of Bengal not to forgive the perpetrators of such incidents, those who encourage such criminals. The center will extend all kinds of assistance to the state government to ensure those who are guilty are punished,” he said.
Mamata Banerjee, who has been heavily attacked by the BJP, claimed conspiracy to defame his government.
“It is an attempt by the BJP, the Left and Congress to tarnish our government … Strict action will be taken against all parties responsible for the Birbhum incident, regardless of their (political) color,” he said.
Without naming anyone, Ms Banerjee said that the incident was orchestrated because “they failed to provoke riots”.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who had difficult relations with the Chief Minister during his tenure, claimed that the incident had embarrassed democracy and humanity.
Mr Dhankhar, in a letter to Ms Banerjee, said the state government’s actions contained a “political tone” and an attempt to protect those guilty.
“In the face of such extremes, I cannot play around in Raj Bhavan and be a dumb spectator,” he wrote.
Ms Banerjee, who was touched by the Governor’s allegations, said: “There is a ‘Lat Saheb’ (noble person) sitting in a conference who describes Bengal as the worst state and throws tyranny at the state government.”