Five killed in police firing, FB calls "Bangla Bandh" tomorrow

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Dinhata/Kolkata, Feb 05 (UNI) At least five people were killed and 24 injured today when police fired to quell a 15,000-strong rampaging Forward Bloc rallyists at Dinhata in Cooch Behar, while the party called a 24-hour "Bangla Bandh" tomorrow to protest the incident.

Inspector General of Police (North Bengal) R J S Nalwa told UNI that one more injured party activist succumbed to his wounds in hospital taking the toll to five.

About 24 people, including 20 policemen, had sustained injuries and Dinhata Court Inspector has suffered severe head injuries. The condition of three policemen was stated to be critical and they had been rushed to Cooch Behar hospital, he informed.

The incident occurred when about 15,000 party supporters gathered to agitate in support of FB's seven-point demand, including issue of the new BPL list, NREGS and North Bengal development programme.

Mr Nalwa said police first resorted to lathicharge when the agitators broke the police barricade and attacked the personnel.

'' They even ransacked the SDO's office, '' he said adding a police officer was seriously injured.

'' Police then burst teargas shells and when even that failed to disperse the mob, they were forced to fire, '' he said.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 Cr PC had been clamped in Dinhata and Cooch Behar sub-divisions following the incident, Cooch Behar Superintendent of Police Anil Kumar said adding nine rounds were fired to ward off the attack by the rallyists.

Altogether 50 people were taken into custody in connection with the incident, he stated.

In North 24 Parganas district, the Forward Bloc activists demonstrated in front of the SDO's office, protesting the killing.

In Kolkata, party state Secretary Ashok Ghosh said, '' The incident is a shame and a blot on the Left Front Government. It is the result of our continued opposition to the one-party rule of the CPI (M) in the name of the Left Front. '' He alleged that police had resorted to indiscriminate firing on the Forward Bloc supporters, who were participating in a law violation programme at Dinhata in Cooch Behar district to press for implementation of the National Rural Employment Programme, guaranteeing job for 100 days.

The veteran leader said two of the victims, whose heads were smashed by police bullets, could not be identified.

'' We vehemently condemn this killing spree of police of the Left Front Government, which is supposed to be a tool for struggle of the working people, '' Mr Ghosh said.

Forward Bloc General Secretary Debabrata Biswaso condemned the police firing and said it was unthinkable in a Left-ruled state.

RSP state Secretary Debabrata Bandopadhaya also condemned the police firing and lent his party's moral support to the bandh.

The CPI in a statement described the incident as "shocking and disgraceful" and appealed to all to keep peace.

The Opposition Trinamool Congress, Congress, SUCI, CPI (ML) Liberation and the Samajwadi Party also supported the bandh.

The CPI(M) in a statement said the Forward Bloc's rally was not peaceful, adding the rallyists went berserk torching police jeep and damaging SDO office at Dinhata.

The CPI(M) also appealed to the people to maintain law and order in the state tomorrow.

UNI XC-KDG SJC AB 2126

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