Cops fire at protesters in Nadia, 1 dead

One person was killed and at least eight persons injured as violence erupted at Tehatta in Nadia this morning, during which police reportedly fired "in self-defence" at a protesting crowd.

Locals were protesting because the police were reportedly denying them permission to hold Jagadhatri Puja at a ground in Tehatta's Haulia village.

The incident comes just eight days after alleged police firing in Dubrajpur in Birbhum district, that left 33 people injured.

According to locals, there had been dispute between two communities over a piece of land in Haulia, which is vested with the state government. A local puja committee had been organising Jahadhatri Puja at the ground for the last eight years. However, this time, another community objected to the puja at the venue.

Ujjwal Biswas, minister for youth welfare from Nadia district, rushed to the spot. "The land is vested with the government. There has been a long-standing dispute over the land between Hindu and Muslim groups. When the Hindu groups wanted to organise Jagadhatri Puja on the ground, the Muslim groups sought permission for namaaz there. We held an all-party meeting in the presence of the SDO and SDPO. The issue was resolved. But local CPM leaders provoked the mob, which caused today's violence," said Biswas.

According to sources, members of the Muslim community wanted the ground to be used as an Eidgah for namaaz.

It was learnt that in the all party-meeting, held a couple of weeks ago, it was decided that the puja would be shifted to a nearby ground. Trimurti Club, which organises the puja, had reportedly agreed to this.

However, the organisers claimed that despite repeated visits to Tehatta police station, they had still not got permission for the puja at the alternate venue. So they held a demonstration today and blocked Karimpur-Krishnanagar state highway at 8 am.

Police reached the spot and resorted to lathicharge while the crowd started throwing stones. A group of protesters attacked the SDPO's residence, which is 500 metres away. They ransacked the office of SDPO Dr Sailesh and started climbing up to the first-floor residence, where his wife and baby were staying. Sailesh, who was on duty at the spot, rushed to his residence. The police climbed to the roof and fired three rounds, targeting the mob.

Three villagers sustained bullet injuries. Of the trio, Ashok Sen (35) was declared brought dead at the Tehatta hospital.

As news of the death spread, the mob set six police vehicles on fire and attacked the forces. Eight police personnel including the SDPO were injured.

Surajeet Kar Purakayastha, ADG, Law and Order, said, "There was an unfortunate incident in Tehatta where police personnel were forced to open fire in self-defence. Police fired three rounds after a mob attacked the SDPO's residence-cum-office. There was a dispute over land between two communities. The local administration intervened to settle the issue. However, today, a huge crowd gathered and blocked the state highway. After police tried to disperse the mob, they attacked the SDPO's residence. One person who sustained bullet injury was declared brought dead. We have ordered a magisterial inquiry. The government will give compensation to the victim's family."

Sabyasachi Raman Mishra, SP of Nadia, denied comment. SDPO Sailesh said, "I was at the spot. We had to resort to lathicharge. Suddenly a group attacked my residence. They ransacked my office, pelted stones and hurled bombs at my residence. My guards had to open fire as the agitators were carrying firearms."

The SDPO, who joined duty in Tehatta on October 2, has decided to shift his family to Krishnagar.

Locals said the dispute had been settled but the police were withholding permission for the puja. "Yesterday, when the police refused permission, people decided to hold a peaceful demonstration today. But the police compelled them to resort to violence," said Abhijit Adhikary, a local resident.

As the mob set several vehicles on fire and the situation escalated, the RAF was called in. The situation was brought under control around 3 pm.

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