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Mamata, BJP trade verbal blows over NIA team attack in Bengal

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Senjo M R
April 06, 2024 20:27 IST
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday accused National Investigation Agency officials of attacking villagers at Bhupatinagar in Purba Medinipur district and not the other way round.

IMAGE: Protesters including women try to stop NIA officials probing 2022 blast case, in Bhupatinagar, West Bengal, April 6, 2024. Photograph: ANI on X

The Bharatiya Janata Party termed the assault as a "state-sponsored attack" on the NIA officials in West Bengal and accused Mamata Banerjee of inciting the violence to create hurdles in the 2022 blast case probe to protect those involved in the incident.


Claiming that officials of the central probe agency had barged into several houses in the early hours over an incident of "bursting of crackers in 2022", the West Bengal CM defended the villagers' response as self-defence.

"The attack was not perpetrated by the women of Bhupatinagar, but rather by the National Investigation Agency team," she said at an election rally in Dakshin Dinajpur district's Balurghat.

"Will the women sit back if they (NIA) go to their houses at night? They will try to defend themselves?" she asked.

The NIA on Saturday arrested two key conspirators in a 2022 blast case amid an attack on the probe agency's team by a crowd in Purba Medinipur district, an official said.

An NIA officer was injured and a vehicle belonging to the probe agency was damaged in the attack, a spokesperson of the federal investigating agency said.
Later, the NIA team lodged a complaint at Bhupatinagar police station, an official said.

Alleging a political motive in the NIA action and an attempt to intimidate Trinamool Congress workers, she questioned why the agency was arresting people days before the polls in a case dating back to December 2022.

Reacting sharply to the incident, BJP national spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla said, "The attack on the NIA officials is Sandeshkhalli 2.0 orchestrated by the state to put hurdles to the investigation into the bomb blast case".

"It was not just a coincidence but a well thought out experiment. It was a state-sponsored attack on the NIA officials. The attack was organised by the ruling TMC," he charged, urging the Election Commission to take cognizance of the incident.

Poonawalla alleged that the pattern of attack on the NIA officials in Bhupatinagar area of West Bengal's East Medinipur district was similar to the attack on the ED officials, organised by the ruling TMC, in Sandeshkhali area in North 24 Parganas recently to "protect" Shahzahan Sheikh.

"Two days ago, Mamata Banerjee, while addressing a rally in Cooch Behar, first gave inciting statements to provoke violence against the NIA officials. As soon as the NIA team was attacked today, Mamata swifty came in to justify the violence and gave the attackers a complete clean chit," he charged.

The BJP leader alleged that the attack on the NIA officials in Bhupatinagar area on Saturday was "direct evidence of the TMC's Talibani mindset culture".

"Political violence, violence against central probe agencies, corruption, protection to terror and radical elements have been clearly institutionalized under this Talibani mindset culture of Mamata Banerjee government," Poonawalla alleged.

"TMC means too much corruption and too much chaos as well. 'Ma Mati Manush' slogan of the TMC government has changed and it has now become 'bomb blast and save rapists'," the BJP leader said.

"Under Mamata Banerjee's rule in West Bengal, TMC means (stands for) Terror, Mafia, Corruption. Law and order is sliding down to a new low every day under the TMC rule. An atmosphere of fear has been created in the state. It's painful," he added.

The Trinamool Congress chief accused the BJP government at the Centre of trying to use the central agencies to win the elections.

"We want the Election Commission to work impartially, not turn into a BJP-run commission," she said.

Questioning the transfer of state's police officers by the EC, she asked why Enforcement Directorate, Central Bureau of Investigation and IT officers have not been changed.

"NIA, CBI are brothers of BJP; the ED (Enforcement Directorate) and Income Tax are funding boxes of BJP," Banerjee said.

Stating that while the state police look after law and order throughout the year, central forces like the BSF, CRPF and CISF are brought in during the elections, she added.

"If you (BJP) have the power, win the election by fighting in a democratic manner. Don't arrest my booth-level workers and election agents," she said at the rally.

She condemned the arrests of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren by central agencies over cases related to excise policy and an alleged land scam, respectively.

"There must be a level-playing field in the elections," she said.

The chief minister said why should she introduce Ayushman Bharat scheme in Bengal when she is providing healthcare facilities to nine crore people under her pet 'Sasthya Sathi' programme, claiming that the central healthcare scheme will benefit only one crore people with equal share of funding from the state government.

She said several schemes were introduced by her government for various categories of people such as Kanyashree, Sikshasree, agricultural produce insurance, old age pension, Lakshmir Bhandar for women, among others.

In an oblique reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's personal guarantees on different issues, Banerjee said, "my guarantee is people." "The guarantee of Ma, Maati, Manush is Lakshmir Bhandar, Kanyashree, Sabuj Sathi and Sasthya Sathi schemes," she said.

Maintaining that there was some unrest in Sandeshkhali over land grab issues, Banerjee said the state police and administration have arrested the accused and are returning land to the villagers.

BJP has fielded Rekha Patra from Basirhat constituency, where Sandeshkhali is situated.

Banerjee accused BJP's West Bengal state president Sukanta Majumdar, the party's candidate from Balurghat for a second consecutive term, of not doing anything for the people of Bengal and speaking against releasing central funds to the state.

Addressing the rally in favour of TMC candidate Biplab Deb, the chief minister claimed that those accused of atrocities on women in BJP-ruled states were not brought to book.

At another gathering in Raiganj (Uttar Dinajpur), Banerjee voiced her concerns, stating, "During his rally in Cooch Behar, Modi threatened to 'hunt down every opponent' using central agencies. Does he imply he's the only virtuous one, while everyone else is a wrongdoer?"

She labeled the BJP as a party of "traitors, thieves, and cheats," accusing them of manipulating agencies like the CBI and NIA for their agenda instead of delivering justice.

Banerjee demanded an impartial Election Commission, criticising its alleged bias towards the BJP's directives.

"We want an independent EC. Not the one which will follow BJP's diktats," the TMC supremo said.

She highlighted the targeted harassment faced by the TMC from central agencies, suggesting collusion between the BJP, CPIM, and Congress in West Bengal.

On the Citizenship Amendment Act, she questioned the BJP's authority to decide citizenship and urged them to lead by example.

"Who are you (BJP leaders) to decide on anyone's citizenship when that person is a citizen already? Why you (BJP) don't set an example yourself? Why don't you classify yourself as a foreigner and apply for citizenship under CAA first," she said.

Accusing the Modi government of distorting the Constitution and twisting the country's history, she said, "You (BJP) have violated the ideals of poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and your men had vandalised the bust of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar."

Banerjee warned against BJP's alleged strategy to stoke communal tensions ahead of elections and cautioned people against falling into their traps.

"They will conspire to polarise the electorate before the elections and use the NIA to make arrests of innocent people belonging to opposition parties. Please don't fall in the trap of BJP," she said.

Referring to the storm in Jalpaiguri district in which five persons were killed, Banerjee said, "Modiji did not for once mention about the disaster during his recent visit to the region which shows BJP's lack of concern for the suffering people."

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Senjo M R© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
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