Written by SWEETY KUMARI | Birbhum | Published:April 23, 2017 5:23 am Security personnel at the site of the explosion at Labhpur village in Birbhum on Saturday. (Source: Express Photo/Subham Dutta)
EVEN AS two more people, who were injured in Friday’s “accidental” explosion in Labhpur village of West Bengal’s Birbhum district, died on Saturday, taking the toll to nine, local residents and some police officials from the village alleged that the blast, and Thursday’s clashes between rival gangs, are a result of an illegal sand mining business worth crores that flourishes in the area. Six people were arrested in connection with the incident but the police said they are yet to arrest the alleged mastermind.
On Saturday, locals alleged that the two groups involved in clashes were vying for control over sand mined from Mayurakshi river, leading to the need to manufacture crude bombs, which sparked Friday’s accidental explosion. Sources said sand from the river in Labhpur is of “excellent” quality and is in high demand. It is sent to construction projects in Kolkata suburb Rajarhat Newtwon, Murshidabad, Asanasol and Durgapur districts. The sand mafia reportedly earn Rs 25 lakh to Rs 30 lakh per month.
“The police do not act against them because they are mostly managed by politically powerful people,” said a resident, adding that there are several such gangs scooping out sand from banks of the Mayurakshi and Ajoy. Confirming that nine people have died so far from the explosion, Additional SP Subhomoy Pal said they were all making crude bombs.
The deceased were identified as Kalu Sheikh, Asadul Sheikh, Shadibar Sheikh, Romjan Sheikh, Anwar Sheikh, Abu Sheikh, Jafaruddin Sheikh and Sabirul Mallick – all local residents. Shoeib Ali from Darbarpur village and Abdul Ahad from Mirbandh village, suspected to be leaders of the gangs that clashed on Thursday, are also alleged to be involved in illegal sand mining business in the area. Both men, said to have political backing, own impressive bungalows, in stark contrast to the mud houses next to them.
Ali was not available on Saturday. Peeping through a window, his daughter Margina Khatoon said, “My brother is already in jail following a conspiracy by Abdul Ahad. I don’t know where my father is. He wasn’t there when the incident took place yesterday.” While alleging that Ahad and his people are involved in illegal mining and earn “lakhs of rupees”, she denied her father is involved in any illegal activity.
Ahad, whose new house is a local landmark — villagers call it the “AC baari (air-conditioned house)” — has not been seen in the village since Friday’s incident. His wife Tajpura rubbished allegations of illegal sand mining against him. “My husband has been in this business for 12 years and controls three sand mines— legally,” she claimed. “Recently the government cracked down on illegal sand mining and made a certificate from the irrigation department mandatory. He has all required documents.” On Saturday, despite the presence of a large police contingent in both villages, most locals stayed indoor.
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