WEST BENGAL RIOTS CLAIM FIRST VICTIM, STATE GOVT SAYS SITUATION UNDER CONTROL

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To indicate that the administration had regained control in North 24 Paraganas, West Bengal govt on Thursday spurned the Centre’s offer to send more central paramilitary forces. — PTI

West Bengal govt offers no comment on the death, spurns Centre’s offer to send more central paramilitary forces to North 24 Paraganas

KOLKATA — The communal violence in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas claimed its first casualty even as the administration claimed to have regained control of the district on Thursday.

One Kartick Ghosh, 65, succumbed to stab wounds at a Kolkata hospital.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed Ghosh to be an active party worker, but his son Pravashis said he had no known political affiliation. The deceased was stabbed with a sharp object on the head on Wednesday. His family brought him to a hospital in Kolkata on Wednesday evening, his son said. He was declared dead early on Thursday.

Dilip Ghosh, president of the West Bengal unit of the party, alleged workers of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the police did not allow him and other key leaders such as Kailash Vijayvargiya to pay their condolences to the family of the deceased.

The state government did not make any official comment on the killing even as people from within the district administration alleged that the disquiet in vast parts of North 24 Parganas flared up into a riot because of inadequate policing.

At the same time, to indicate that the administration had regained control, the state on Thursday spurned the Centre’s offer to send more central paramilitary forces.

Four companies of the Border Security Force—around 300 personnel—had been deployed on Tuesday to step up vigil. But by then, the unrest had already spread across an area encompassing four police stations.

It started with an objectionable Facebook post going viral. The police were unable to pre-empt the spread of the unrest because their response to it was “not calibrated to deal with the magnitude”, said a key official, who asked not to be named. “There was instruction from the highest level of administration to exercise restraint,” he added.

At the same time, the administration was unable to “neutralise the provocation from outsiders”, said another officer, who too asked not to be identified. The state decided to suspend data services on Tuesday evening in the affected region, but by then the fire had already spread, he said.

The administration is of the view that the perpetrators of the violence were outsiders, and not locals. The police have detained around 22 people, but have still not formally charged them with offences, said the two officers cited above. The aim now is to defuse the tension, so the police are still exercising restraint, they added.

Meanwhile, TMC legislator from Basirhat South Dipendu Biswas said unknown miscreants vandalised his home and the adjacent party office on Thursday. Two motorbikes parked in front of his home were torched. “I was scared for my life,” said Biswas, a former footballer, who returned home from Spain on Thursday morning.

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