Three people died in fresh political violence between members of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party and a local rival in restive West Bengal state, authorities said yesterday.
Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Trinamool Congress -- which runs the state -- have accused each other of instigating weeks of violence during and since India’s recent election.
A police official said the bodies of two BJP members were found hanging from a tree in Howrah district over the past 48 hours, while a Trinamool stalwart was killed by a crude bomb blast late Monday, east of Kolkata.
Since May 23, when election results were announced, at least 15 people have been killed from both parties, a senior police officer said.
On Saturday four people died and at least 18 were injured in gun battles between BJP and Trinamool supporters in Sandeshkhali district.
The BJP, which has traditionally held sway in the Hindi-speaking belt in the north, has been trying hard to pick up support in West Bengal.
At an event in Kolkata yesterday, Trinamool Congress party chief Mamata Banerjee said, “There is a concerted effort to incite violence in Bengal by the BJP. They will not succeed.”
The BJP, which had so far been a bit player in West Bengal’s politics, said its workers had been continuously targeted by Banerjee’s party.
“Trinamool is losing, they have lost the people’s favour and they are trying to retain power through violence,” BJP State President Dilip Ghosh told Reuters.
In the elections that ended last month with a big national victory for Modi, the BJP increased its tally of seats in the state to 18 from just two at the last vote in 2014.
Locals in Sandeshkhali remained tense yesterday. “There is a continuous sense of fear,” resident Rabin Mondal told AFP by telephone. “We are spending sleepless nights. Many have fled.”
Last month, a BJP supporter was shot dead in the state capital Kolkata, and a car belonging to a Trinamool member was pelted with rocks. In February, a Trinamool lawmaker was shot dead.
Political killings are rife across India. National Crime Bureau data showed more than 100 political murders in 2016, but experts say the figure was likely much higher.