West Bengal: Tension prevails in Sandeshkhali, police looking for ‘missing’ persons

As of Sunday morning, police are carrying out search operations to trace the persons alleged to have gone missing in what has been deemed as the "worst political violence" following the 2019 general election.

Tension prevailed on Sunday in strife-affected Sandeshkhali in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas, with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress accusing each other of orchestrating Saturday’s violence that allegedly claimed at least four lives.

A huge contingent of police officers has been deployed in the village and its surrounding areas under the Nyajat police station in the district, where the violence broke out in the evening, to prevent the tension from escalating.

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While the BJP leadership on Sunday claimed that five of its supporters were killed in the clash, the TMC said that six of its workers were missing.

The bodies of one TMC worker and two BJP supporters have been identified by family members at a local hospital.

As of Sunday morning, police are carrying out search operations to trace the persons alleged to have gone missing in what has been deemed as the “worst political violence” following the 2019 general election.

State BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu Saturday said three of his party workers — Sukanta Mondal, Pradip Mondal and Shankar Mondal — have been shot dead, while state minister Jyotipriyo Mallick maintained that TMC worker Kayoom Mollah has been killed in the clash.

In claims and counter-claims over the political fallout, both the parties have stated that several of their workers have gone missing.

Continuing his tirade against the ruling party, BJP leader Mukul Roy, who is scheduled to lead a seven-member delegation of party MPs to the violence-hit area on Sunday, accused Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of instigating political strife in Bengal through her speeches and meetings.

He also maintained that “five members of the saffron party were killed and several others went missing” during the clashes at Sandeshkhali in North 24 Parganas district.

Speaking to reporters at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport here on his arrival from Delhi, Roy alleged that local TMC leader Shahjahan Sheikh has masterminded the attack on BJP workers.

The state Food and Supplies minister, on the other hand, said his party apprehended that the “missing workers” might have been killed.

Mallick, who is also leading a party delegation comprising state ministers to Sandeshkhali, told PTI, “We apprehend that six TMC workers have been killed and their bodies dumped in water.”

He alleged that it was the BJP workers who had attacked TMC supporters during a procession, and accused the saffron party of bringing in outsiders to foment trouble.

The minister also asserted that the BJP workers were killed from bullets fired by their “own people” and denied that TMC men were involved in their deaths.

Contending that his party wants “peace to prevail”, Mallick said that he has asked his partymen not to hold any meeting or procession without the district leadership’s permission.

Sources in the TMC and the BJP had claimed on Saturday that the clashes broke out over removal of saffron party flags in the area. Local people said several shops and houses were vandalised during the violence, which broke out during a TMC procession.

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