7 killed in fire after TMC panchayat leader’s murder in Bengal


At least seven people were charred to death when their houses caught fire at Bogtui village in West Bengal’s Birbhum district on Monday night hours after Bhadu Sheikh, the deputy chief of ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) controlled-Barshal gram panchayat, was killed in a bomb attack, police said. Sheikh was a resident of Bogtui. Some locals alleged the houses were set on fire during attacks by members of a faction of the TMC. Anubrata Mondal, the party’s district unit president, claimed on Tuesday the houses caught fire because of a short circuit. He denied allegations of infighting and retaliatory attacks. “The villagers died when their houses caught fire because of the short circuit. There was no violence last night.” Mondal said footage of cameras installed around the crime scene was being examined.

Fire brigade personnel, who did not want to be identified, said they found at least 10 houses on fire. “We were stopped by local people from dousing the fire. We recovered seven bodies from one house. These were charred so badly that we could not make out whether the victims were men, women, or minors,” said a fire brigade staffer. Police superintendent Nagendra Nath Tripathi, who rushed to the spot, said only a forensic examination can ascertain the cause of the fire. “Seven bodies were found from one house. These have been sent for post mortem. I cannot say anything more before the matter is investigated.”

A Criminal Investigation Department (CID) team was being rushed to the spot. The CID was expected to take over the probe.

A police contingent rushed to the scene earlier cordoned it off. Minister Firhad Hakim and TMC legislator Ashis Banerjee were rushing to the spot.

Four masked men on motorcycles attacked Sheikh, eyewitnesses told police. He was declared dead at a local hospital. The attack was allegedly a fallout of rivalry between two factions of the ruling party. Several houses were also ransacked after the murder. Two newly-elected councillors of TMC and Congress were shot dead in Bengal’s North 24 Parganas and Purulia districts on March 13 days after the municipal polls on February 27. Four people have so far been arrested in the two murder cases.

A police officer said Bhadu Sheikh’s brother, Babar Sheikh, was shot dead a year ago in the same village. Anarul Hossain, a block unit president of the TMC, said he asked party workers to remain calm and not to indulge in any act of reprisal.

Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader Samik Bhattacharya called for the imposition of the President’s rule in the state. “Barbaric attacks of this nature used to take place in the Middle Ages. Law and order situation in the state has collapsed. This sort of a situation calls for the President’s rule.”

(Except for the headline and the pictorial description, this story has not been edited by THE DEN staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)