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Vindictive Politics in Bengal? ISF MLA Naushad Siddiqui’s Prolonged Police Custody and Bhangar's Troubles

Bhangar locals and supporters of ISF allege that the MLA's arrest and protracted police custody is a play of the TMC before the panchayat polls.
ISF MLA Naushad Siddiqui

ISF MLA Naushad Siddiqui. Image Courtesy: Facebook

Kolkata: Bhangar in West Bengal’s South 24 Parganas district has been making headlines in recent months. In the area that has been fuming with anger for the last five years due to political turmoils, residents allege they are facing injustice, especially if they are associated with the Indian Secular Front (ISF) or the Left Front. 

Shamsul Ali Mullick, working president of the ISF, alleges that his party workers have been facing torture in police custody; in particular, Asma Bibi, a co-accused in the Esplanade violence case along with party leader Naushad Siddiqui, was not given sanitary pads during her menstruation and was forced to stay in the same clothes for eight days in the police custody.

Bhangar MLA and ISF leader Pirjaada Naushad Siddiqui was arrested on January 21 during the observance of the second foundation day of his party at Rani Rashmoni Road in Kolkata. The lone Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from the ISF and 17 of his party workers were sent to nine days of police custody after a clash with the cops. Police have pressed charges against the ISF leader, including illegal assembly, destroying government property and attempting to murder police persons on duty. 

The day after his arrest, the Bankshal Court sent Siddiqui to police custody till February 1. Afterwards, Siddiqui was sent to 14-day judicial custody till February 15. The government pleader opposed the bail of the leader at the court. On February 2, when he was produced at the Baruipur court, there was a petition from the Leather Complex police station seeking his custody over the violence on January 21 in the area under its jurisdiction and he was sent to another six-day police custody. A complaint was registered at the Leather Complex police station accusing Siddiqui of vandalising a TMC office in Hatishala, assaulting TMC cadres and provoking unrest in the area. 

However, according to eyewitness reports, the said violence at Hatishala crossing of Bhangar took place when Trinamool Congress strongmen led by Arabul Islam allegedly attacked Naushad Siddiqui and his party cadres in the daytime while the former group was travelling to Kolkata to observe the ISF foundation day.

Amid the political turmoil, life has come to a near standstill for the residents of several villages in the Bhangar block. Several blockades have been ostensibly put up in Bhangore by ISF activists protesting against the arrest of their MLA. In the last Assembly elections, Naushad Siddiqui, in alliance with the Left Front and Congress, had won the Bhangar seat with a margin of over 26,000 votes.

The villagers allege that they are being taught a lesson for resisting the government’s earlier land acquisition efforts and having the determination to contest the upcoming panchayat polls in many villages such as Khamarait, Puna Padmapukur, Machibhanga, Uriyapaara of Bhangar block. They allege that the villages have faced attacks in the last fortnight. The residents have reported terrorising sounds of bullets being fired through the night in the villages not in the clutches of the TMC.

Bhangar is situated on the eastern fringes of the expanding Kolkata metropolis, shoulder to shoulder with the ultra-modern Rajarhat township. With the land prices skyrocketing and the Mamata Banerjee-led government abandoning the policy of state mediation in land acquisition, the area has been purportedly left to the mercy of the TMC leaders turned land sharks.

“In liaison with the TMC supremo and CM Mamata Banerjee and her different ministers, land mafias are snatching away the lands of the villagers – mostly minorities of the area – and devouring any compensation payout,” claimed All India Agricultural Workers Union leader Tushar Ghosh, who himself is a resident of Bhangar.

Ghosh alleged, “They (the TMC) are sure that they will lose in the upcoming panchayat polls, and hence are using the police, while the TMC strongmen are orchestrating hooliganism against ISF cadres in the area to wrest control. They are filling up the ponds, the wetlands and the agricultural land near the new town, which commend the price of nearly Rs 50 lakhs per kattha of land. Acres and acres of such land in Bhangar are being handed over to private players by these hooligans. These illegal land transfers are financing the nefarious activities of the TMC hooligans turned land sharks of the area. Bhangore is a golden hen for them and they do not want it to be jeopardised.”

Naushad Siddiqui had given a slogan that the dividends of development of Bhangar should be given to its residents only, and this slogan had gained immense popularity in the area, said Shamsul Ali Mullick, the state working president of ISF, while talking to NewsClick. “This sent ripples into the enemy camp, which is seeing this support as a sign of their whitewash rout in the impending panchayat polls,” he said.

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