|A Trinamul activist torches the CPM office in Khejuri on Wednesday. Picture by Jahangir Badsa
Trinamul Congress supporters led by Subhendu Adhikari today foiled a CPM bid to “recapture” Khejuri and chased away Left leaders and armed cadres who were celebrating an initial success with a feast. Police, however, were “silent bystanders” during the day-long clashes.
A 17-year-old boy was hit by a stray bullet in his left leg during a bomb-and-bullet duel between the two parties.
This morning, around 500 armed CPM cadres arrived in East Midnapore’s Khejuri in two 10-wheeler trucks and other vehicles to recapture territory the party had lost to Trinamul after last year’s Lok Sabha elections. The CPM group, led by Khejuri zonal secretary Himangshu Das, barged into Kamardah village at 5am.
The cadres hurled bombs and fired in the air to create panic, residents said. They also put up barricades with bamboo sticks and hoisted party flags. The residents said around half of the CPM group comprised supporters and activists who had fled their homes in Khejuri and neighbouring Nandigram fearing Trinamul attacks. The rest were “outsiders”.
The CPM supporters and activists forced the residents of Kamardah to march with them. Many CPM cadres then entered the local high school and asked the cook of the institution’s hostel to prepare food for the “warriors”. The CPM men provided the cook, Prajapati Mondal, with provisions for the “feast”.
Several CPM supporters also entered the Kamardah local committee office, which had been lying closed since the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
As news of the CPM “recapture” attempt spread, Trinamul leader and Tamluk MP Adhikari reached Kamardah with around 1,000 party activists and supporters.
The Trinamul activists ransacked the local CPM office and set it on fire before descending on the school where the CPM cadres were holding the feast. “The cadres had just sat down for lunch when the Trinamul activists attacked them,” Mondal said.
The heavily outnumbered CPM activists started fleeing when they saw the Trinamul mob arrive, local residents said. Several of the cadres left behind their arms in their hurry to escape. Both sides exchanged fire and hurled bombs at each other as the cadres retreated.
Dipak Pramanik, 17, a Class XI student, was hit by a stray bullet in his left shin while he was returning home to Birbandar village, adjoining Kamardah.He was taken to a Contai hospital. Doctors said he was out of danger.
Late in the evening, sources said the cadres were stuck at Birbandar as Trinamul had blocked all approach roads to Khejuri.
N. Chakraborty, the additional superintendent of police from Haldia, and his Contai counterpart H. Meena had reached Khejuri with a big force around 6am. But local residents alleged they did not intervene when the CPM activists entered Kamardah. The police did nothing even when the Trinamul and CPM activists clashed, the residents added.
District police chief Ashok Biswas later told reporters: “I will find out whether the police were present during the clash. I will also look into the allegation that they did nothing.”
The Trinamul activists put up barricades on all arterial roads leading to East Midnapore, including the Digha-Calcutta highway. Several Khejuri residents had to walk 15km to reach home.
CPM district secretary Kanu Sahu accused Trinamul of “foiling our efforts to bring displaced Left supporters back to their homes in Khejuri.
Trinamul leader Partha Chatterjee said a party delegation would visit Khejuri and Nandigram tomorrow on Mamata Banerjee’s instructions . “Armed CPM cadres, backed by outsiders, unleashed terror in Khejuri in their bid to reclaim territory,” he alleged.
The chief minister held a meeting at Writers’ Buildings with the chief secretary and top police officers this afternoon and discussed the situation in Khejuri, sources said.