Wednesday, October 3, 2007

West Bengal: Ration riots spread, one killed

KOLKATA/BURDWAN/SURI: Ration riots raged on in South Bengal on Wednesday, with another protester dying in police firing at Ketugram, Burdwan — the second death in two days. Ten villagers were injured.

The continuing violence prompted chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to appeal for peace. He asked people not to take the law into their hands and said the government had requested the Centre to increase rice, wheat and kerosene supplies. "Some people are deliberately trying to create trouble," he said.

Before the CM's call for calm, Burdwan and Birbhum were rocked by ration riots. Hundreds of villagers attacked ration dealer Bipadtaran Mandal's house in Burdwan's Serenda village. When the police tried to disperse them, they responded with lathis and stones, injuring four cops. The police fired on the mob, killing Dhanu Das (45) and injuring 10, one of them seriously.

The police jeep burns at Labhpur. Picture by Tapas Acharya
While villagers claimed the police had fired 20 rounds, Burdwan SP Piyush Pandey said they had fired six bullets in the air. The cause of Das' death would be revealed in the post-mortem, he said.

Villagers, who had not got PDS wheat for 11 months, had gathered on Tuesday evening to get their due quota. Mandal told them to come later. But when they returned on Wed-nesday, he was missing.

In Birbhum, ration dealers' houses and shops were atta-cked and looted at Takora, Basapara, Banagram, Gopalpur, Barsal and Belia villages in Rampurhat area. Bombs were hurled in Munigram.

On Tuesday night, Nanoor OC Kartik Ghosh was hit on the head with an iron rod when the police tried to save a ration dealer in Feugram village. On Wednesday, food department sub-inspector Abani Banerjee was attacked and injured by Trinamul supporters who raided his office in Suri.

More than 533 dealers surrendered their licences in Suri and Bolpur subdivisions on Wednesday.

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