West Bengal: Blasts Linked to Illegal Bomb-Making Industry; Authorities Investigate Political Connections
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Kolkata: Following the Egra blast, which claimed the lives of 11 people, numerous blasts have occurred in West Bengal. The situation is particularly alarming with the impending Panchayat elections in the state. Blasts have taken place in Bhangar and Bajbaj in South 24 Parganas, Dubrajpur in Birbhum, Angrej Bazaar in Malda, Chuchura in Hooghly, and Sodepur in North 24 Parganas. In most incidents, the names of influential individuals – allegedly connected to the ruling party – have surfaced as the “masterminds” behind these incidents.
In the aftermath of the consecutive blasts, the administration has initiated a statewide probe to identify illegal bomb-producing units operating under the guise of legal firecracker units. However, allegations have arisen in the state that instead of apprehending the culprits, the administration is harassing and arresting employees of legitimate firecracker units. These employees claim to operate genuine units and question why they are being arrested.
Last Tuesday, a high-level meeting was held at the state secretariat in Nabanna, attended by officials from various departments, including the Additional Chief Secretary of Fire Services, Principal Secretary of Fire Services, Director General of Fire and Emergency Services, ADG (Law and Order), and Joint Chief Controller (Explosives). During the meeting, district administration officials were urged to take strict action against the increasing number of illegal firecracker units flourishing in the state. The district administrations were also directed to compile a detailed list of illegal firecracker-producing units and identify the sources of banned firecrackers.
The intensity of the Egra blast was so severe that burnt body parts were reportedly scattered in Khadikul village of Sahara Gram Panchayat. Following the blast, enraged villagers allegedly attacked a local police officer, who they believed was complicit in allowing the illegal bomb-making unit to operate.
According to sources in the opposition, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee attempted to downplay the incident and minimise the number of casualties. She claimed that it was a firecracker-producing unit and not a bomb-making unit.
Notably, numerous reports of bomb-making units had surfaced prior to the upcoming Panchayat elections in the state.
According to media reports, the bomb-making unit belonged to Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Krishnapada Bag, also known as Bhanu Bag, who allegedly forcefully acquired land from farmer Dayanidhi Maiti, the recorded owner, and constructed a house and factory on the site. The factory employed 25 workers, but three were absent on Tuesday when the blast occurred.
Bhanu Bag was reportedly inside his house when the blast happened. He fled while injured and was later apprehended from a Cuttack hospital with 70% burns. However, he succumbed to his injuries. Among the 11 deceased, five were women. Police Superintendent Amarnath K stated that the blast occurred within a firecracker-producing unit.
Another blast occurred in Bajbaj following this blast, leading to 17 casualties from various blast incidents in the state. Subsequently, the police have taken an active role and initiated combing operations in the Bajbaj and Champahati areas of West Bengal, known for their firecracker units. The police in the Baruipur district have imposed a two-month ban on storing and selling firecrackers in the Champahati area of South 24 Parganas. To date, the South 24 Parganas district police have arrested approximately 44 individuals in connection with storing banned firecrackers. In the Bujbuj and Maheshtala police station areas, the police have seized and confiscated around 57,000 kg of banned firecrackers, while in the Baruipur Police District, the number stands at 20,000 kg.
"The numerous illegal bomb-making units operating under the guise of firecracker units have become a thriving cottage industry in the state. These units primarily receive orders from the ruling party to supply crude bombs, which they keep readily available during state elections. The police, aware of this, maintain distance from these units, providing the operators with a free hand to terrorise the entire state," said Shamik Lahiri, central committee member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in an interview with NewsClick.
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