8 Burnt Alive In Bengal After Killing of TMC Leader

Kolkata/New Delhi- Eight people, including two children, were charred to death as nearly a dozen huts were set ablaze in West Bengal's Birbhum district early Tuesday in a suspected fallout of the murder of a ruling TMC panchayat official, provoking calls by the opposition BJP for imposition of the President's rule.

Altogether 11 people have been arrested so far, and the West Bengal government has constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by Additional Director General (CID) Gyanwant Singh to probe the incident, state police chief Manoj Malviya said.

The residents of Bogtui village on the outskirts of Rampurhat town were jolted out of sleep by the deafening sounds of bomb explosions. They tried to douse the flames and called the police and fire brigade for help, as flames leapt from one thatched house to another, killing seven people including two children, while another person who was rescued died later in a hospital.

Najira Bibi, one of those who managed to survive, told PTI from her hospital bed at Rampurhat, We were sleeping and suddenly heard the sound of bombs the miscreants set our houses on fire. I managed to escape but don't know what happened to others in the family.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar went for each other's jugular over the incident, while the Union home ministry sought a detailed report from the state government.

A 9-member delegation of BJP MPs including the party's national vice president Dilip Ghosh, Locket Chatterjee and Arjun Singh met Home Minister Amit Shah in the national capital and sought his intervention to punish the perpetrators of the incident.

BJP president J P Nadda constituted a five-member committee, which includes four MPs, to visit the site of the tragedy.

The members of the fact-finding committee are former Uttar Pradesh DGP Brij Lal, former Mumbai police commissioner Satya Pal Singh, former IPS officer K C Ramamurthy, West Bengal BJP chief Sukanta Majumdar -- all MPs -- and former IPS officer Bharati Ghosh.

The incident, West Bengal DGP Malviya said, occurred hours after the killing of TMC's Barshal village panchayat's deputy chief Bhadu Sheikh around 8.30 pm on Monday.

"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.

"We are not confirming that the fire was because of retaliation for other incidents. It is being looked into. If it was, it was due to a deep-rooted personal enmity," Malviya said.

The Sub-divisional Police Officer concerned an officer in-charge of Rampurhat police station have been removed from active policing duty, the DGP said.

The TMC despatched a three-member team of lawmakers led by minister Firhad Hakim to the spot to take stock of the situation.

"Horrifying violence and arson orgy #Rampurhat #Birbhum indicates state is in grip of violence culture and lawlessness," Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who has been locked in a protracted feud with the Mamata Banerjee government, tweeted, and sought an update from the chief secretary.

Banerjee hit right back, shooting off a letter to Dhankhar, saying "It pains me that you have chosen an unfortunate incident in Rampurhat to pass sweeping, uncalled for comments on law and order situation in the state. This incident is unfortunate."

Leader of the opposition in the West Bengal assembly Suvendu Adhikari demanded imposition of President's Rule in the state.

"The lawless situation in the state proves imposition of President's Rule is the only way to protect the state. Our delegation will visit the area tomorrow," he said, alleging the TMC is now killing its "own people", indicating the incident could be the result of intra-party rivalry.

CPI(M) state secretary Mohammed Salim said the cold-blooded killing of so many people by goons of the TMC is condemnable.

Salim said Mamata Banerjee will have to take responsibility for the deaths.

"The incident at Bogtui village results from the violence unleashed by the ruling party. Now they are killing each other," Salim said, also indicating an internecine feud in the TMC led to the tragedy.

TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh rubbished the allegations, claiming the blaze was "accidental", and that the administration has already done the needful.

"We condemn the deaths that seem to have happened due to an accidental fire. It was our party leader who was killed last night. The state government has formed an SIT to investigate the matter," he said.

The BJP delegation that met Shah in the national capital urged the home minister to take cognisance of the rapidly deteriorating law and order situation in the state and initiate appropriate action.

We cannot allow the lives of our citizens to be put at risk under increasing political terrorism in the state any more. We will remain grateful for your timely intervention, and strictest of actions against the perpetrators, the delegation said.

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