Eight Charred to Death in Bengal Village Hours After TMC Panchayat Leader's Death

Eleven people have been arrested in connection with the incident.

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Kolkata: Eight people, including two children, died in the early hours of Tuesday, March 22, in Rampurhat of West Bengal’s Birbhum district, after their houses were allegedly set on fire an hour after the alleged murder of a Trinamool Congress panchayat leader.

While Bengal police have claimed that the toll is eight, a section of media reports have it that 10 or 12 people may have died. Opposition politicians have claimed that among the dead are minors as well.

West Bengal DGP Manoj Malaviya told reporters in Kolkata that police are investigating if the two incidents are related and the angle of retribution. Malaviya also said that while seven bodies were discovered dead at the site, one more person died in the hospital.

Eleven people have been arrested in connection with the incident, he said.

The top police officer said TMC panchayat deputy chief of Barshal village, Bhadu Sheikh, was murdered around 8:30 pm on Monday.

Shortly after the murder, at least eight houses were allegedly set on fire in Bogtui village situated on the outskirts of Rampurhat town, which some claimed was in retaliation to the killing.

The situation is now under control and a police picket has been established in the village since last night. We are investigating how the houses caught fire and whether the incident is related to the death of the TMC panchayat leader, which appears to be due to a deep-rooted personal enmity, he said.

Asked about claims by some fire brigade officials that 10 bodies were found, the top police officer clarified while seven of them were recovered after the blaze was brought under control, three injured persons were rescued of whom one died in a hospital.

“The SDPO and in-charge of Rampurhat police station have been removed from active policing duty,” the DGP said.

He added that the state government has set up a special investigation team headed by ADG (CID) Gyanwant Singh.

Local media has reported that there was tension in the Bogtui village of Rampurhat since Monday, when the Barshal Gram Panchayat vice-president Bhadu Sheikh was allegedly murdered.

The houses which were set on fire are 200 metres from Sheikh’s house, the Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika has reported in its online edition.

Reports have said that seven to eight houses were found completely burnt in the fire.

The ruling TMC has sent a three-member MLA team led by minister Firhad Hakim to the spot to take stock of the situation.

Governor Jagdeep Dhankar has asked for an urgent update on the incident and opposition politicians have tweeted against the violence.

BJP legislators walked out of the West Bengal assembly on Tuesday at the end of the first half of the day’s session demanding Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee make a statement on the floor of the House on the matter.

BJP MLA Shankar Ghosh wanted to raise the issue in Zero Hour but was not allowed by Speaker Biman Banerjee who said it was not listed in the questions.

TMC general secretary Kunal Ghosh has tweeted that the incident is “not related to politics” and is the result of a “local village strife”.

BJP-affiliated lawyers to file petition

Lawyers affiliated to the BJP will file a petition before the Calcutta high court on Wednesday seeking a judicial enquiry and a CBI probe into the death of the eight people. Advocate Tarun Jyoti Tiwari on Tuesday said that he and nine others, who belong to the BJP Lawyers’ Cell, mentioned the incident before the division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice R. Bharadwaj and sought leave to file the petition.

He said that the bench granted them permission and they will move the case on Wednesday.

Eight people were charred to death after their houses were set on fire in a village near Rampurhat town in the early hours of Tuesday, Tiwari alleged.

The incident took place after the alleged murder of a local Trinamool Congress panchayat leader.

(With PTI inputs)