High court, child rights panel seek report on Howrah clashes amid political slugfest

Violence in Hooghly after Bengal BJP chief is stopped from visiting violence hit areas; Internet suspended, ban orders remain

Clashes between BJP workers and police after the party’s state chief Sukanta Majumder was stopped from visiting the violence-hit areas of Hooghly, suspension of the Internet in parts of the district and clamping of section 144 of CrPC in sensitive areas formed the aftermath of fresh violence which erupted in Rishra on Sunday evening. 

No new instances of violence were received from the district since Monday morning while 12 people were reportedly arrested so far.

Meanwhile, the Calcutta high Court on Monday directed the Bengal government to submit a comprehensive report on the Ram Navami procession violence which rocked large parts of south Howrah on 30 March. 

Taking suo motu cognizance of the alleged “use of minors” in that violence, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights sought a report from the Howrah Police inside the next 48 hours. Governor CV Ananda Bose has already asked for an incident-cum-action-taken report on the Howrah violence from the state following a reported communication from home minister Amit Shah for the same.

The BJP, on its part, is likely to meet the President later this week to appraise her of “the deteriorating law and order situation” in Bengal and register a formal complaint on “selective attack on BJP workers” across the state, sources in the party confirmed.

Police deployed in large numbers after a clash broke out between two groups during Ram Navami procession, in Hooghly district.

The political drama over Sukanta Majumdar’s attempts to reach Rishra on Monday afternoon began after the leader, accompanied by BJP MP Jyotirmay Singh Mahato and other followers, were stopped by the police at Konnagar on grounds of prohibitive Section 144 of CrPC remaining clamped in the violence-hit areas of the district. In a showdown that followed, BJP workers clashed with the police and attempted to breach the guardrail barricades put up by the security personnel who were deployed in large numbers.

Majumdar and his followers made two attempts to move ahead, once when the leader was stopped at around 1 pm and again, at around 4 pm. During the second attempt, Majumdar was seen pushing the barricades himself and raising slogans against the police and chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Unsuccessful in both attempts, Majumdar and BJP workers squatted in front of the barricades and began a sit-in demonstration. The demonstration was still in progress at the time of filing of this report.

During this whole period, the GT Road, which connects Hooghly to Calcutta, remained blocked for vehicular traffic movement on the first working day of the week causing large-scale inconvenience to commuters.

“We had asked the police to allow only three of us to go to Rishra to meet the families of those who were injured on Sunday, that too on foot. The police aren’t even allowing that. They haven’t shown us any document on the imposition of section 144. This is just a ploy to stop the BJP,” Majumdar alleged.

During the course of a hearing of a Public Interest Litigation filed by BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari seeking NIA investigation into Shibpur violence last week, the Division Bench of acting Chief Justice T.S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya directed the state to file a comprehensive report on 5 April on the incident and steps taken to ensure peace in the affected areas of Howrah city. The Bench also directed the government to submit CCTV and video footage of incidents of violence. The court directed the police to make adequate deployment to ensure that people of the locality are not affected and school-going children and businesses are safeguarded.

Speaking at a government programme in Khejuri in East Midnapore on Monday, Mamata Banerjee warned the state administration of possible escalation of violence during the Hanuman Jayanti celebrations scheduled on 6 April. “I will give one more warning to the police and administration for the 6th of this month. They must be very watchful about BJP-sheltered goons trying to disturb peace in the name of Bajrangbali. No backward caste people, OBC or students should get hurt. The student community should stand up and resist these rioters,” she said. 

“The rioters are holding armed rallies in the name of Ram Navami celebrations, dancing with revolvers in hand. They are purposely changing rally routes and targeting minority areas to create trouble. They are setting fruit carts of poor people on fire in the holy month of Ramzan,” Banerjee alleged.

“Why are Ram Navami processions being held for five days? We can understand holding rallies on the day of the festival, but why later if not to provoke more violence?” she asked.

Sukanta Majumdar responded: “The rallies were extended beyond Ram Navami only to aid the police in maintaining law and order. If all the rallies were taken out on a single day, there aren’t enough policemen in the state to man them. Moreover, the Rishra rally had the necessary police permission. Why were the participants not given protection?”

Both Majumdar and Suvendu Adhikari visited Biman Ghosh, BJP MLA from Pursurah who suffered a stone hit during Sunday’s violence and was undergoing treatment at a private hospital at Uttarpara. While Adhikari tweeted video of Biman Ghosh getting brick batted while he was being escorted out from the violence-hit area by the police, Majumdar tweeted purported video of a mob attacking rally participants with bricks and stones.

TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh tweeted another video which he claimed was taken during violence in Chinsurah on Sunday. “Just see the language and attitude of the goons who are attacking people misusing the name of Lord Ram. This video is from Chinsura. This was a planned incident. After the day of Ramnavami, how can there be a celebration after 72 hours? All these are plots of provocation,” his tweet read.

Speaking to reporters in Delhi, state leaders of the BJP lashed out against Mamata Banerjee and her administration. “The violence incidents are a diversionary tactic to move people’s attention from the widespread corruption in the state in which Mamata Banerjee and her party are now stuck,” said Debasree Chaudhuri, former union minister.

“Why are Ram Navami processions coming under attack? It’s because Mamata Banerjee is trying to appease the rioters. She is desperate to please them after the TMC’s debacle in Sagardighi bypolls,” alleged Khagen Murmu, BJP MP.


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