Forty-six people were arrested till Wednesday evening following clashes that broke out in Canning, around 40 kilometres south of Kolkata, and adjoining areas of South 24 Parganas district in West Bengal.
Reports suggest that more than 200 houses were burnt down in the violence, following the recovery of a cleric's dead body.
Maulana Ruhul Kuddus, a resident of Dhoakata in Ghutiari Sharif, and Maulana Abdul Wahab, a resident of Maujpur in Joynagar, were reportedly attacked in Naliakhali late on Monday night while returning from a religious congregation in Jamtala haat in Kultali.
While Kuddus was shot at and his throat slit, Wahab received grievous injuries. Police sources said Kuddus was carrying Rs. 11,50,000 on him which the attackers looted.
Early on Tuesday morning, as news of the death spread, irate locals blocked trains at Ghutiari Sharif and indulged in large-scale arson. The mob targeted the police when they tried to take away Kuddus's body. Six policemen were injured, including Canning police station sub-inspector Anup Ghosh; and police jeeps vandalised.
Violence was reported from different areas of Canning, Basanti, Kultali and Joynagar. A number of vehicles were also torched. Section 144 is clamped in the affected areas since Tuesday evening.
A huge police force led by district police superintendent Praveen Tripathi had to rush to the spot to control the situation. Reinforcements were called in from Bidhannagar police commiserate under police commissioner Rajeev Kumar.
RAF personnel and water cannons were also deployed. A police picket has been posted in the area and patrolling intensified.
"Seventeen FIRs have been registered in connection with the murder, attack on police and arson. Twenty-six people were arrested on Tuesday and 20 on Wednesday," said a senior police official.
The area witnessed an uneasy calm on Wednesday as the body of Kuddus was buried in his native Dhoakata village.
Magrahat West MLA and minister of state for minority affairs Giasuddin Mollah blamed the opposition CPI(M) and Congress for fanning trouble prior to panchayat polls in the state.
"The chief minister has time and again warned the people of the state against sinister designs by a section of politicians to disrupt public life," Mollah said.