The government will also compensate all villagers whose properties were damaged when attackers, believed to be Trinamul supporters, ransacked several houses in Birbhum’s Makhra, considered a BJP-dominated village.
The Trinamul government has rarely missed an opportunity to dish out doles but this is the first time that public funds are being used to fight flames lit by a political clash. Compensation had been given after attacks tied to Maoists under a central scheme.
Today’s compensation plan is being seen as an attempt to assuage the irate villagers as well as portray the incident, which reduced police to mere spectators, as a criminal clash, sources said.
Accounts on the ground from Birbhum’s Makhra, where the three persons were killed, have so far suggested the violence was triggered by an attempt by Trinamul supporters to “recapture” the village from the BJP.
Among the three dead, a youth appeared to be a victim in the true sense of the word. He was shot dead while working on a road project.
Matters are not that clear-cut about the other two. Sources said one was killed while a bomb he was holding exploded, although his wife has filed a murder complaint. The third person who was killed hailed from Dubrajpur, 22km from the attack site.
When the Saradha scandal had hit the roof, the Mamata government had sought to bail itself out by announcing a Rs 500-crore fund.
The use of taxpayers’ money to tide over a problem created by a defaulter known for his proximity to leaders of the ruling party was then seen as a blatant misuse of power but few political parties questioned the move for fear of a backlash. A decision to provide compensation to victims of a hooch tragedy is pending in court.
This time, the BJP criticised the size of the amount announced, not the principle of using public funds, probably because the slain youth was said to be a party supporter.
“We had demanded compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for the victims and Rs 2 lakh for those who were injured in the clash. So, this meagre compensation of Rs 2 lakh is an insult to their families,” said state BJP chief Rahul Sinha.
CPM’s Mohammad Salim said: “Such a move (the compensation plan) will encourage political clashes. I have never heard about a government giving compensation to the victims of a political clash.”
But state education minister and Trinamul secretary-general Partha Chatterjee said: “I am not aware of such a decision.”
The decision was taken this evening at a meeting at Nabanna where senior government officials were present.
-The Telegraph, Calcutta