7 villagers gunned down in Lalgarh area of West Bengal

Unidentified armed miscreants today gunned down at least seven villagers, including two women, and injured 19, some of them critically, in Netai village in the Lalgarh Police Station area of West Midnapore district in West Bengal.

Police said at least seven people had fallen prey to the fusillade at Lalgarh. While five were killed on the spot, the others succumbed to injuries in hospital.

Tension was running high in the area and a posse of policemen had been deployed to bring the situation under control.

District Magistrate, West Midnapore, Surendra Gupta and Superintendent of Police Manoj Varma, now busy at Writers' Buildings with the Election Commission authorities, however, said they did not have a detailed account of the incident.

"We have heard that there have been some clashes at Lalgarh, details of which are being enquired into," they said.

The injured were shifted to Lalgarh Hospital and Midnapore Medical College and Hospital, where the condition of several was stated to be serious.

The deceased had been identified as Phulkumari Maity, Sourav Garai, Shyamananda Ghorui, Kablu Patra, Dhiren Sen, Dhruba Goswami and Saraswati Garai.

Unofficial sources said that some miscreants had yesterday demanded that at least one member from each family of Netai and Birkanar villages should take arms training from them.

This morning scores of villagers surrounded the two camps and started a demonstration against the order. At that point, a volley of bullets was showered on them by the armed miscreants.

The Congress and the SUCI have called a 12-hour strike separately in West and East Midnapore districts on Monday in protest against the incident.

Official sources said a Central team might visit the area to take stock of the situation.

Governor M K Narayanan, vehemently condemning the incident, said, "Violence has no place in a democracy."

Meanwhile, Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee will reach Lalgarh tomorrow, while Opposition Leader in the State Assembly Partha Chatterjee has already visited the injured in the Midnapore hospital.

Ms Banerjee came down heavily on the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) for today's incident and charged it "perpetrating the heinous crime just to remain in the saddle."

Trinamool Congress MP Shuvendu Adhikary said it was a "well-hatched attack on innocent villagers by the CPI(M) goons."

Congress leader Manas Bhunia demanded the immediate resignation of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee following the incident.

However, State Minister Susanta Ghosh denied all those charges and said it was a "conspiracy" by the Trinamool Congress and Maoists to defame the CPI(M).

When asked, CPI(M) state secretary Biman Basu said he was not fully aware of the details of the incident as yet.


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