Targeted by the BJP over the killing of eight people in Bengal's Birbhum, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today said "such incidents have happened in Gujarat and Rajasthan too" and assured action "in a fair manner". She also said she would visit the area tomorrow.
Eight people were allegedly locked in their homes and burnt alive by a mob near Rampurhat town of Birbhum, in protests following the death of a Trinamool Congress village leader, Bhadu Sheikh, in a crude bomb attack on Monday.
The violence and killings have revived sparring between Mamata Banerjee and the BJP, which has demanded her sacking and a central investigation.
"Such kinds of incidents have happened in Gujarat and Rajasthan too. I am not justifying the incident in Rampurhat. We will take action in a fair manner," Mamata Banerjee said today.
"The government is ours, we are concerned about people in our state. We would never want anyone to suffer. The Birbhum, Rampurhat incident is unfortunate. I have immediately dismissed the OC, SDPO (officer in-charge, sub-divisional police officer) of Rampurhat. I will go to Rampurhat tomorrow," added the Chief Minister.
On BJP leaders alleging that they were stopped from visiting the spot, Ms Banerjee said: "This is Bengal, not Uttar Pradesh. I had sent a delegation of Trinamool to Hathras (where a young woman died in 2020 after being gang-raped) but we were not allowed entry. But we are not stopping anyone from coming here."
She said she would visit the village tomorrow and didn't go today as she didn't want rival parties around.
"I would have gone there today, but a few political parties are on their way to the place. It would get late by the time they return. I don't want to visit the place when they (opposition leaders) are around. I don't want to get into any quarrel. Let them relish 'lyangcha' (sweet) and then get on with their journey to Rampurhat," the Chief Minister jibed.
The Birbhum killings have escalated into a massive political row with the BJP in Bengal as well as the Centre, and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar accusing the Mamata Banerjee government of allowing the state to lapse into chaos and lawlessness.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the killings were "heinous" and those responsible would not be forgiven. ""I hope that the state government will definitely ensure that those who have committed such heinous crimes are punished. I would also urge the people of Bengal to never forgive the perpetrators of such incidents, those who encourage such criminals. The centre would extend all sorts of help to the state government to ensure the culprits are booked," he said at a function.
Governor Dhankhar had yesterday called the death of eight people "horrific" and claimed that the state was in the grip of a culture of "violence and lawlessness". Ms Banerjee responded sharply, saying that his comments were "uncalled for".
Mr Dhankhar, in his three-page reply to Ms Banerjee today, hit back, saying the Chief Minister had taken an "accusatory stance" at his "restrained reaction".
"As usual, you have taken an accusatory stance at my restrained reaction to grisly carnage worst in the memory at Rampurhat...The shocking carnage is being justifiably compared by many to the incidents in the state, a few years ago, while you were in the opposition," the Governor wrote.
"Adopting diversionary tactics, you have labelled my reaction as a sweeping and uncalled for statement. In the face of such enormity, I cannot fiddle in Raj Bhavan and be a mute spectator," he added.