Arabul locked up, so is Bhangar

Bhangar, Jan. 18: Traders and shopkeepers in Bhangar today kept shutters down, fearing violence by Trinamul workers in the wake of Arabul Islam's arrest.

A day after the arrest of the local Trinamul strongman and former MLA, traders in Kantatala, Sonepur, Polerhat and Kashipur areas said they did "not want to take any chances".

A police officer said alleged Trinamul workers had hurled bombs in Bijoyganj bazaar, Kanthalia and Polerhat last night. "This probably triggered panic among the traders," he added.

Shajahan Fakir, who owns a grocery shop in Kantatala, said: "As Bhangar is Arabul's stronghold, we took no chances today. We know Arabul has a big following. Local Trinamul workers are angry over his arrest. From experience, we know that traders and shopkeepers are always soft targets during any violence. Who is going to come to my help if anything happens to my shop? So we decided to keep our shops closed."

Schools, colleges, banks and offices remained open.

Police teams were posted at various points in Bhangar to prevent any untoward incident.

"Bombs were hurled in some places of Bhangar last night. We have deployed around 150 policemen who are keeping watch at different points in Bhangar," an officer said.

A cloth trader in Kashipur, where Arabul lives, said he "felt bad" about the leader's arrest as he was a Trinamul supporter, but at the same time, he was "concerned" about his business.

"Arabul hails from Kashipur. He has plenty of supporters here. So I thought it would be wise to keep my shop closed," Sujaul Mollah said.

In Bamanghata, the Trinamul office that was ransacked by alleged CPM workers on January 8 was open today but there was no one inside.

Akash Mondal, 35, who owns a cycle-repairing shop near the Trinamul office, said: "Party workers opened the office in the morning. But I don't know where they have gone."

Trinamul workers took out processions in many villages of Bhangar block today to protest the arrest of Arabul, accused of leading an attack on CPM leader Abdur Rezzak Mollah on January 6.

The president of the Bhangar block unit of Trinamul, Pradip Mondal, said: "State-level leaders have told us not to block roads and disrupt normal life. We have also instructed our party workers to exercise restraint.

"But our workers in the villages brought out processions to protest Arabul's arrest and demand the arrests of Rezzak Mollah and CPM district secretariat members Sattar Mollah and Tushar Ghosh. The duo led an attack on our workers on January 8."

Arabul's single-storey house in Kashipur's Urepara was locked today.

The former Bhangar MLA's nephew and neighbour, Laltu Sheikh, said that as far as he knew, Arabul's wife, son, daughters and sons-in-law had left for Sonarpur police station in the morning. Arabul is lodged at the police station.

Youths were seen standing in groups and speaking in hushed tones in Urepara. Residents said the youths were Arabul's supporters.

"Earlier, Arabul used to live in a two-storey house in Urepara. He moved into his one-storey house nearby about a year ago," Laltu said.