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May 29, 2000
Administration takes sides in Trinamul-CPM tussle
Rifat Jawaid in Keshpur, Midnapore
Keshpur and Midnapore, two major markets for agricultural produce in south-west West Bengal, are out of bounds for Mamata Banerjee's supporters. Any Trinamul Party worker, who breaks this rule, has to pay by his life.
Now, villages such as Majuria, Soroi, Bikalchak, Majerhati, Kuchiara and Ichaipur - which have a large support base of Mamata loyalists - have begun creating their own markets. These markets, of course, do not offer competitive prices. But then, anything is better than facing armed Communist Party of India (Marxist) workers who virtually rule Keshpur and Midnapore.
On May 10, over 10 people were killed when Trinamul and CPM workers clashed in Keshpur.
Tension has been rising in the area ever since the Election Commission announced a by-poll in Panskura in Midnapore district. With Trinamul and CPM candidates locked in a straight contest, it was just a matter a time before the tension exploded into violence.
Trinamul supporters allege that CPM workers have been digging up roads leading to villages where Mamata's supporters have an upper-hand. This is probably being done to prevent them from reaching polling booths on the voting day.
Villagers charge that the administration has been turning a blind eye to all this under pressure from their CPM bosses.
"We have stopped lodging complaints, because we know police will not act against their masters. They receive directions from Writers' Building. Everybody knows how Susanta Ghosh, a minister in Jyoti Basu's Cabinet, has been supplying arms to his party cadres," said a Trinamul worker.
Others allege that even while bringing culprits to book, cops discriminate between Trinamul and CPM workers.
Midnapore district SP, Gaurav Chandra Dutta's, role too has come under sharp criticism. Mamata and her party has more than once demanded his ouster pointing out that the State Human Rights Commission has debarred him from heading any district police force.
Dutta, however, maintains that his department is doing its best to maintain law and order in the disturbed region.
"How can we, the police, be partisan. Our main concern is to win the confidence of ordinary people. We have deployed additional units of Eastern Frontier Rifles and Rapid Action Force, besides increasing patrolling of WB police in the disturbed area," Dutta said.
Inspector General of Police R K Jauhri said Panskura election was at the centre of this sudden spurt in violence. He also charged Mamata Banerjee with making inflammatory speeches.
Trinamul workers too have now begun arming themselves. "It's better to die fighting than live a life of a coward. We don't care about the repercussions. We must protect our mothers and sisters," said a Mamata follower.
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