Bengal: BJP woman worker killed, party supporters hold protests in Nandigram

Bengal: BJP woman worker killed, party supporters hold protests in Nandigram

Kolkata | Barely two days ahead of the sixth phase of parliamentary polls, a woman BJP worker from the Scheduled Caste community was killed in Nandigram in West Bengal's Purba Medinipur district, triggering large-scale protests by saffron party activists there on Thursday, police said.

The region, which falls under Tamluk Lok Sabha seat and is considered to be the backyard of Bengal's leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikari, is scheduled to vote on May 25.

As part of the protest, BJP workers burned tyres, blocked roads, and closed shops in Nandigram, alleging that TMC-backed criminals were responsible for the killing of Rathibala Arhi, a saffron party worker in Sonachura village. Police said Rathibala's son Sanjay and seven others were injured after unidentified assailants attacked them on Wednesday night.

Police, central forces and RAF personnel deployed in the area had to resort to lathicharge to disperse the mob, officials said, adding a person was detained by police in connection with the alleged murder.

The BJP had called a bandh in Nandigram as part of the protest but withdrew it later, a local leader said.

"Rathibala and several other party workers were tasked with the job of guarding a local polling booth last night after poll campaigns in the area ended for the day. TMC-backed criminals attacked them. She was murdered and others were left badly injured," BJP district general secretary Meghnadh Paul told PTI.

After Sanjay's condition turned "very critical", he was shifted to a hospital in the city, Paul said, adding that others are being treated at a local medical establishment.

Nandigram TMC leader Swadesh Das dismissed the allegations and claimed, "There were some family disputes and the killing could be connected to it."

Taking to X, BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, in an oblique reference to TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee's public speech in the area on Wednesday, alleged, "The bloodshed was a direct fallout of Bhaipo (nephew)'s provocation in Nandigram yesterday. The murder was orchestrated by the Trinamool after realising its certain defeat. The hands of the jihadis do not tremble before hacking a woman to death. The BJP will see this through to its end, exact revenge in a legal manner, and respond by democratic means."

Later, Adhikari visited the hospital where the injured people are being treated. He also went to Nandigram police station and spoke to the officers there and alleged that they held a meeting with the "prime accused" in this case.

The BJP leader also lashed out at the central forces deployed there and asked them to keep a check on such criminal activities.

"Here a member of the SC community is murdered by TMC goons and you are doing nothing. When will you act?" he questioned personnel of the central forces.

Addressing an election rally in Kanthi, Adhikari hit out at Abhishek Banerjee and alleged that the murder was a result of the latter's provocation.

"I am the son of the soil (Bhumiputra). I will take revenge for this incident. This bloodshed is the result of the provocation of Abhishek Banerjee during yesterday's rally in Nandigram. The TMC committed this barbaric killing because they are sure about their defeat here."

The state BJP also wrote to the chief electoral officer of West Bengal urging him to immediately remove the SP of Purba Medinipur district.

The BJP also alleged that the woman's murder was the "consequence of inflammatory statements made by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during an election rally in Haldia on May 16."

"The murder is a direct consequence of the remarks made by Mamata Banerjee at a rally in Haldia on May 16. Banerjee had said she will take revenge on the people of Nandigram for her defeat during the 2021 assembly elections," the BJP wrote to the poll body.

BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya posted on X, "Such violence is unacceptable in a democracy. Mamata Banerjee must be held accountable for provocative statements and subsequent action by criminal members of her party. We will fight and ensure justice for Rathibala Arhi and all victims."

In an apparent dig at the Election Commission, Malviya added, "But when will the commission take note of Mamata Banerjee's repeated communal and murderous statements? After the election is over?"

TMC leader Santanu Sen, however, called the incident a "reflection of BJP's internal feud between the party's old-timers and its new recruits in Nandigram".

"The BJP realises that come Saturday, it will fare badly in the region. In its desperation, the BJP is trying to pin the reflections of its factional fights on the Trinamool," Sen alleged.

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