Police probing the daylight murder of ruling Trinamool Congress panchayat member Saifuddin Laskar in Joynagar in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal have said that it was the handiwork of contract killers who were paid to kill the “influential leader”.
Saifuddin Laskar was killed by a group of motorcycle-borne people early Monday morning when he was on his way to a local mosque at Bamangachi village. The murder triggered violence in the area and a mob lynched a man, identified as Sahabuddin Laskar, who they suspected of having committed the crime before setting fire to 20-25 houses belonging to CPI(M) workers and supporters.
“The CCTV footage shows two persons on a bike and three others on another bike entering the lane. They are seen following Saifuddin Laskar who was walking slowly. Suddenly, the two motorbikes stop by his side. After which people are seen running towards the Trinamool leader who died soon after. We are trying to identify the accused through the footage,” said a police officer involved in the murder probe.
According to the police, the assailants had done recce a day before the incident. “We believe that there was a mastermind behind the murder,” said the police officer on the condition of anonymity.
Following the murder, police had arrested the alleged shooter, identified as Shahrul Sheikh. Sheikh was sent to 10 days of police custody by the Baruipur sub-divisional court on Tuesday.
While being taken to the court, Sheikh shouted: “Elder brother Nasir gave me the tip-off.”
Police are yet to confirm the identity of Nasir.
So far, police have registered three FIRs — the murder of TMC leader Saifuddin Laskar; the death of suspected accused Sahabuddin Laskar who was beaten by a mob; and the arson and vandalism in the area that followed the murder of the TMC leader.
According to police, Sahabuddin Laskar, a resident of Godabar area of Joyanagar, used to work as a tailor. Shahrul, the alleged shooter, also worked as a tailor earlier.
Even on Tuesday, a day after the incident, tension ran high at Bamangachi.
“Several houses have been burnt. Many villagers have gone homeless and several others left the area fearing more violence,” said a local shopkeeper. While villagers claimed that Trinamool Congress workers intentionally attacked the houses in a planned manner, the ruling party leaders denied the charge, saying the violence was “out of rage” following Saifuddin’s murder.
“Our houses have been burnt because we are CPI(M) supporters. The TMC people have targeted our houses and set them on fire. There is no rice, there is nothing to wear,” said a woman who couldn’t enter the area till Tuesday evening.
Meanwhile, a delegation of CPI(M) leaders was stopped from entering the affected villages. This was followed by a scuffle between the police and CPI(M) leaders, including former MPs Sujan Chakraborty and Samik Lahiri. “On what ground are they stopping us?… We are giving police three days’ time to rehabilitate those who have become homeless. If they fail to do so, we will come here in bigger numbers,” said Sujan Chakraborty.
ISF leader Naushad Siddiqui, who is an MLA of the neighbouring Bhangore constituency, was also stopped by the police from visiting the village. “Why am I not being allowed to go to the affected area? I am a public representative. I have the right to stand by the people who are in trouble. Give me a written order, only then I will not visit the area,” Siddiqui said.
A police officer said that they were only allowing the residents of the area to enter. “No outsiders are being allowed to enter the area for administrative reasons and to maintain law and order,” the officer said.
Reacting to the murder of Saifuddin Laskar, BJP state general secretary Agnimitra Paul said: “The deceased TMC leader belongs to the minority community. It is high time that the minorities understand that they are being used by Mamata Banerjee as a vote bank.”