Birbhum Arson: Calcutta HC Orders Bengal Govt to Protect Eyewitnesses; Mamata Says None to be Spared

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The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday directed the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CSFL) to collect evidence samples from the scene of the crime and protect eyewitnesses a day after eight people were charred to death in Rampurhat town of Birbhum district in the suspected fallout of a TMC panchayat official’s murder.

“CCTV cameras need to be installed immediately to record all angles in the area. Cameras to be installed in front of Birbhum district court judge. All the footage needs to be preserved. The SIT to submit its report tomorrow by 2 PM. Also, CFSL must collect all samples from the spot to be included in SIT report,” the Calcutta High Court said.

Here are the top 10 developments in the Birbhum Killings Case

  1. The Calcutta High Court on Wednesday took suo moto cognisance of the violence in West Bengal’s Birbhum district that claimed eight lives. The Court was told that eyewitnesses are threatened and all the village residents especially men have been forced to leave and therefore, there is a need to provide security to villagers. The argument of counsel for the petitioner stated that there is no one now in the village and therefore confidence-building steps must be taken.
  2. At least 22 people have been arrested so far in connection with violence, officials told PTI. “We are grilling them (those arrested) to find out if there were more people involved in the incident. Some accused seem to have fled the village. We are trying to trace them,” the officer said.
  3. Family members of TMC Panchayat leader Bhadu Sheikh, whose killing on Monday is suspected to have sparked off the attack with petrol bombs on some 10 houses in Bogtui village, claimed that Sheikh’s sons were among those arrested.
  4. The West Bengal government has constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by Additional Director General (CID) Gyanwant Singh, to probe the incident. The Union home ministry has sought a detailed report on the incident from the state government.
  5. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stated that proper action would be taken against the perpetrators ‘irrespective’ of political leanings. “Strict action will be taken against all those responsible for the Birbhum incident, irrespective of their (political) colours,” she stated adding she would be visiting the district on Thursday to take stock of the situation there.
  6. The incident was condemned by opposition parties including the BJP and Congress. Leader of the Opposition and BJP MLA Suvendu Adhikari said. “The chief minister is also the home minister of the state. She has failed in discharging her duties as the home minister. She should immediately resign. BJP MP and the party’s state vice-president Arjun Singh said the TMC supremo should step down. “Earlier it was the opposition workers facing the heat. Now it is TMC versus TMC in the state. Leaders of the ruling party are fighting among themselves. The CM must immediately step down and the probe into Birbhum killings must be handed over to the CBI. The police are trying to hush up the matter. Attempts are being made to shield the culprits,” Singh alleged.
  7. The Calcutta High Court on transferring the case to the CBI said unless the state is allowed to produce a report of the investigation and if the Court observes the investigation has not been carried out properly, there is no need to transfer. “The investigation should be thorough and truth should come out,” it said adding the Court at the first instance to allow the State to produce the case diary/ report about the investigation.
  8. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has asked the West Bengal Police to file an action taken report in connection with the violence in Birbhum, within three days. The commission has also asked the police to ensure the safety and security of women and children living in the violence-affected area.
  9. The incident has also sparked a fresh war of words between West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after he claimed that the state was in the grip of a culture of “violence and lawlessness”. Banerjee slammed Dhankhar’s comments as “uncalled for”.
  10. The Left Front (LF) on Wednesday took out a rally in Rampurhat town of West Bengal’s Birbhum district, demanding justice for those killed in the “mass-murder”. LF chairman Biman Bose, who led the rally along with CPI(M) state secretary Mohd Salim, said any attempt to hush up the “mass murder” would be resisted and claimed the police had not “not doing anything” to rescue the villagers.

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