Eight people burned to death in gruesome revenge attack after Indian village chief killed

At least eight people have been charred to death in West Bengal, eastern India, allegedly in revenge for the death of a village chief.

More than seven houses were locked and burned down in Rampurhat village, Birbhum district on Monday night after Bahadur Sheikh, a leader associated with the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) party, was found dead.

Firefighters recovered seven bodies from the homes, while one person later succumbed to his injuries in a hospital.

Local reports said the victims of this unprecedented “revenge killing” included children and women, but authorities have yet to identify them.

Meanwhile, Anubrata Mondal, a TMC official in Birbhum district, claimed he was ‘told’ the fire was caused by a ‘short circuit which caused an explosion in a television’.

Eleven people have been arrested in connection with the violence so far, while the state government led by Mamata Banerjee has formed a special team to investigate Monday’s carnage.

“An hour after news of the murder of TMC chief Bahadur Sheikh was announced last night, seven to eight nearby houses were burnt down,” said Manoj Malviya, the director general of police. He added that two police officers who were in charge of the area have been suspended.

Sheikh, 38, was standing near a junction when four assailants on bicycles threw crude bombs at him. He was taken to a local government hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

State politicians have called for action against the perpetrators of mob violence.

Suvendu Adhikari, a lawmaker from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), called for “immediate central invention” while accusing the state government of manipulating and reducing the death toll.

BJP members staged a walkout of the state assembly after they were banned from discussing the killings on the floor of the House.

Opposition members also demanded that Ms. Banerjee resign from her post.

In a video message on Twitter, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar offered his condolences to the bereaved families, while condemning “the horrible barbarity”.

“Deeply saddened and disturbed by the horrible barbarism in Rampurhat…It is indicative of the fall of law and order in the State. I have repeatedly stressed that we cannot allow the ‘State of being synonymous with a culture of violence and anarchy,’ he said.

There has been a spike in political violence in West Bengal since the state’s local elections in 2021. The latest attack came just days after two politicians, one from the TMC and the other from the Congress party, were shot after winning the local elections.

Christina A. Kroll