West Bengal: 200 homes torched, shops ransacked in riots
Reports say the murder of a religious leader sparked violent clashes in the Canning sub divsion of the district. Maulvi Rohul Kuddus of Ghutiyari Shariff was returning from Jaamtala Haat on the night of Feb 18 when an unidentified gang fired at him. One of his aides Abdul Wahab who was riding pillion on the motorcycle escaped with minor injuries but Maulvi Kuddus died on the spot.
In the wee hours of Feb 19, a bus driver Samir Sen saw the body lying on the Naliakhali main road and alerted the Canning police. By the time cops arrived at the scene, Abdul Wahab had informed some people about the incident.
Soon after this, shops in Gopalpur, Naliakhali, Goladogra and Herobhanga were ransackedby a mob. Hindus living in the area were attacked and their homes burnt down. The cops tried to restore calm but the arsonists did not spare even police vehicles. Two senior police officers were injured.
The mob blocked the roads at Bhangankhali, Priyor More, Natunhat etc. As the situation seemed to be spiralling out of control, Rapid Action Force personnel were deployed in the district.
Niti Central reported that several of the arsonists were brought in trucks from parts of Kolkata. Residents of Naliakhali said that a large number of outsiders damaged their temple and molested five women on Feb 19.
According to political observers, the violence is linked to the forthcoming Panchayat elections in West Bengal. The ruling Trinamool Congress and the CPI-M are busy trying to woo Muslim voters in the district where the minority community forms a third of the population.
Even as both these parties look to exploit the communal flare-up to their advantage, there is the real danger of the state slipping into the sort of turmoil that Assam witnessed last year. Hopefully the authorities will wake up before that and take the necessary measures.