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NIA Team Attacked in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee Questioned “Midnight Raid”

NIA Team Attacked in West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee Questioned “Midnight Raid”

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Apr 6: After the unsavoury incident at Sandeshkhali where some Enforcement Directorate officials were attacked, a National Investigative Agency (NIA) team was attacked at Bhupatinagar in East Midnapore district in West Bengal when the officials had gone to investigate a 2022 blast case at a Trinamool Congress leader’s house on early Saturday morning.

The team was allegedly was attacked by villagers and bricks were thrown at a car of the investigative agency’s team injuring at least two NIA officials. The incident followed the attack on the ED team at Sandeshkhali in north 24 Parganas district on January 5 when the officials had gone to raid the residence of a local TMC strongman Sheikh Shahjahan who was later arrested.

The Anti-terror agency NIA arrested two key conspirators in connection with the 2022 Bhupatinagar bomb blast case. The arrested individuals, Balai Charan Maity and Manobrata Jana, were taken into custody following extensive searches conducted at five different locations, including Jana’s residence.

As the team commenced its search operation, they were suddenly confronted by a hostile mob. The situation quickly escalated as the mob launched an assault on the NIA officers, resulting in damage to property, including the breaking of a vehicle’s windscreen.

The aggressive resistance was aimed at halting the NIA team and stopping the officials from reaching the Bhupatinagar police station for the completion of arrest formalities. In response, the NIA has filed a complaint at the local police station regarding the incident.

The officials were on their way to Kolkata with the arrested TMC leaders Manobrata Jana and Balai Chandra Maity when the vehicle came under attack. As per primary inputs, one of the cars was damaged. “Locals gheraoed the vehicle and pelted stones at it. The NIA has said one of its officers was also injured,” a senior police official said. The NIA has also lodged a police complaint in this regard, he added.

The NIA had asked eight Trinamool Congress leaders to appear before its officers on Saturday, for questioning in connection with the blast. The leaders had skipped the earlier summons that directed them to visit the NIA office at Kolkata’s New Town on March 28.

TMC leader Kunal Ghosh alleged that the opposition BJP was behind the NIA move while the TMC supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee criticised the NIA for its “midnight operation.”

Ms Banerjee said, “Why did they raid at midnight? Did they have police permission? Locals reacted in the way they would have if any other stranger had visited the place at midnight. Why are they arresting people right before the elections? What does the BJP think, that they will arrest every booth agent? What right does NIA have? They are doing all these to support the BJP. We call upon the entire world to fight against this BJP’s dirty politics.”

According to the NIA, Manobrata Jana and Balai Charan Maity were allegedly involved in a conspiracy to manufacture and detonate crude bombs. The December 2022 explosion, which killed three people, took place in the house of Rajkumar Manna in Naruabilla village of East Medinipur district. Rajkumar Manna, along with Biswajit Gayen and Buddhadeb Manna, died in the blast.

Initially, the West Bengal Police registered an FIR on December 3, 2022. However, the Explosive Substances Act was not initially applied in the case. Subsequently, a writ petition was filed at the Calcutta High Court, urging the inclusion of relevant sections of the Act and the transfer of the case to the NIA.

Following the incident, a large police contingent was dispatched to the scene to bring the situation under control. Ms Banerjee also claimed that the NIA personnel had initially started assaulting the resident rather than the villagers initiating the attack. “Will the women sit back if they are attacked?” she asked.

The TMC chief accused the BJP of trying to use the central agencies to win the elections. “We want the Election Commission to work impartially, not turn into a BJP-run commission,” she said.

West Bengal Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari took to X to condemn the attack on the NIA officials. He said the Law and Order structure of West Bengal has crumbled completely.

BJP leader Locket Chatterjee also strongly criticized the attack. Calling it ‘outrageous’, the BJP candidate from West Bengal’s Hooghly said ‘this blatant disregard for law and order is unacceptable.’ The Trinamool Congress, on the other hand, has sought an urgent appointment with Election Commission of India (ECI) over the misuse of central agencies like NIA.

On December 3, 2022, an explosion ripped apart a kutcha house with a thatched roof in Bhupatinagar, killing three people. The NIA took over the 2022 blast case on June 4, 2023 and re-registered it as RC 16/2023/NIA/DLI under various sections of law, including the Explosive Substances Act.

During the course of the investigation, NIA uncovered the role of several other accused in the case, including the arrested accused, Manobrata Jana and Balai Charan Maity. The two men had actively participated in the conspiracy to make crude bombs and had extended support for the same, NIA had found in its probe, which led to the recent searches and arrests.

The arrested accused will be produced before the Special NIA Court in Kolkata.




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