Targeted by the BJP over the killing of eight people in Bengal’s Birbhum, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today said “such incidents have happened in Gujarat and Rajasthan too” and assured action “in a fair manner”. She also said she would visit the area tomorrow.
Eight people were burnt alive as their homes were set on fire by a mob near Rampurhat town of Birbhum district early Tuesday. The killings were suspected to be in retaliation of a Trinamool leader’s murder the previous day.
The violence and killings have revived sparring between Mamata Banerjee and the BJP, which has demanded her sacking and a central investigation.
“Such kinds of incidents have happened in Gujarat and Rajasthan too. I am not justifying the incident in Rampurhat. We will take action in a fair manner,” Mamata Banerjee said.
“The government is ours, we are concerned about people in our state. We would never want anyone to suffer. The Birbhum, Rampurhat incident is unfortunate. I have immediately dismissed the OC, SDPO (officer in-charge, sub-divisional police officer) of Rampurhat. I will go to Rampurhat tomorrow,” added the Chief Minister.
On BJP leaders visiting the spot, Ms Banerjee said: “This is Bengal, not Uttar Pradesh. I had sent a delegation of Trinamool to Hathras (where a young woman died in 2020 after being gang-raped) but we were not allowed entry. But we are not stopping anyone from coming here.”
The Birbhum killings have escalated into a massive political row with the BJP in Bengal as well as the Centre, and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar accusing the Mamata Banerjee government of allowing the state to lapse into chaos and lawlessness.
Mr Dhankhar had on Tuesday called the death of eight people “horrific” and claimed that the state was in the grip of a culture of “violence and lawlessness”.
Ms Banerjee responded sharply, saying that his comments were “uncalled for”.
Mr Dhankhar, in his three-page reply to Ms Banerjee today, hit back, saying the Chief Minister had taken an “accusatory stance” at his “restrained reaction”.
“As usual, you have taken an accusatory stance at my restrained reaction to grisly carnage worst in the memory at Rampurhat…The shocking carnage is being justifiably compared by many to the incidents in the state, a few years ago, while you were in the opposition,” the Governor wrote.
“Adopting diversionary tactics, you have labelled my reaction as a sweeping and uncalled for statement. In the face of such enormity, I cannot fiddle in Raj Bhavan and be a mute spectator,” he added.
“Nothing can be more farcical” than the claim that the state had always been peaceful, barring a few incidents, the Governor wrote to Ms Banerjee, asserting that a “politically-caged investigation” in the state inspired no confidence.