MHA seeks report from Bengal govt about Birbhum incident
New Delhi, March 23, 2022
After at least 10 persons were charred to death in an incident that happened after the murder of a deputy Panchayat Pradhan at Baguti village in West Bengal's Birbhum district on Monday night, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Tuesday asked the West Bengal government to ensure the safety and security of the common people, officials in the ministry said.
The MHA has also sought a report from the West Bengal government about the incident, they said.
The government's move came after a delegation of West Bengal BJP MPs met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and urged him to intervene in the matter, and requested for a report on the state government's actions against the perpetrators of the alleged crime.
The MHA also directed the state administration to maintain the law and order situation in Bengal and provide security to the common people of the locality.
The officials of the state government have said that as many as 11 persons have been arrested by the local police in Rampurhat, while the inspector and the sub-divisional police officer have been suspended after the incident.
They also said that three injured persons were rescued on Monday night when eight houses were gutted in the fire.
Both the police and the ruling Trinamool Congress have denied political motives behind the incident.
The state government has formed a special investigation team under ADG, CID, Gyanwant Singh, DIG, Western Range, Sanjay Singh and DIG, CID, Operations, Miraj Khalid to probe the incident.
The fire brigade which went to Baguti on Monday night recovered three bodies then, and the remaining seven on Tuesday morning.
"Horrifying violence and arson orgy. Rampurhat #Birbhum indicates the state is in the grip of violence culture and lawlessness. Eight lives lost. Have sought urgent update on the incident from the Chief Secretary. My thoughts are with the families of the bereaved," Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said in a tweet.
"In West Bengal, human rights are in decline and rule of law has capsized."
Among the 10 dead, six were women and two were children, local leaders said.
Director General of Police Manoj Malviya, however, said that no political motive behind the incident could be established yet.
"Seven from one family were killed. Another person succumbed at the hospital. So far, 11 arrests have been made. We haven't been able to establish any political motive behind the incident. Personal enmity could be the probable cause. The SIT has been formed to probe whether villagers went about setting houses on fire after the murder (of panchayat leader Badu Sheikh)," Malviya said. He said the incident happened within an hour of the Trinamool panchayat office-bearer's murder.
Birbhum's Superintendent of Police Nagendranath Tripathi said: "At this moment we cannot confirm whether the fire is linked to the murder of the Trinamool leader."
The Trinamool district leadership also claimed the incidents of the panchayat leader's killing and the arson weren't linked.
"I have been told that there was a short circuit that led to an explosion in a television set from where the fire originated and spread to three-four houses. Fire brigade went there immediately. A police team has gone to the village, let them investigate," said Anubrata Mondal, the Trinamool district President.
"I wasn't there. Let the police find out," he said.
Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari demanded central intervention over the incident, which the CPI-M has described as a massacre.
"Law & order in a rapid freefall in WB. Tension & terror has gripped Rampurhat area of Birbhum district, after a panchayat upoprodhan (deputy chief); Bhadu (sic) Sheikh was reportedly killed last evening in a bomb attack. Angry mob ransacked and set afire several houses afterwards," tweeted Adhikari.
"The nightlong barbarity has led to the death of at least 12 people; mostly women. Charred bodies are being recovered as of now. Administrative cover up has already begun with attempts being made to lower the body count. Immediate central intervention required," he added.