West Bengal violence: Peace returns to Basirhat, but public mood still volatile | kolkata | Hindustan Times
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West Bengal violence: Peace returns to Basirhat, but public mood still volatile

BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said he would present the governor with a memorandum demanding the dismissal of the Mamata Banerjee government in favour of President’s rule on Saturday. The party will organise a protest rally in Kolkata that afternoon.

kolkata Updated: Jul 16, 2017 07:09 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
A man cycles past a damaged police van in Basirhat.
A man cycles past a damaged police van in Basirhat. (Samir Jana/HT Photo)

At first glance, Basirhat is at peace. Shops have reopened in many places, and fear doesn’t seem to stalk people on the streets anymore.

But scratch the surface of this picture, and one can see a strong undercurrent of communal tension that’s still capable of blowing up in the face of a wary Bengal government. In fact, police personnel barely managed to avert a number of communal clashes on Friday.

While life returned to normal in places like Swarupnagar, Taki and Baduria, the mood remained tense at Sardarati, College Para and Chapapukur Road. All political parties were kept at bay, with police preventing members of the BJP, CPI(M) and the Congress from visiting restive areas. While a 20-member BJP team was arrested at Michaelnagar, about 50 km from Basirhat, a contingent of Left leaders – led by Lok Sabha MP Md Salim – was intercepted 40 km away at Ashoknagar. Among the arrested people was actor-turned-BJP MP Roopa Ganguly.

Tension mounted on Chapapukur Road when some youngsters from the minority community ventured into a Hindu-dominated neighbourhood. Police resorted to caning and bursting tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd.

Some residents of the area were miffed that chief minister Mamata Banerjee hadn’t visited them yet. “We have been under siege for the last five days. I remember how Mamata used to rush to various places at the drop of a hat. Why isn’t she coming here to take a first-hand look at our situation then?” asked Ruma Pal, a homemaker.

Several teams of police and BSF personnel, led by five IPS officers, were stationed in the area.

The authorities erected barricades at Trimohini junction to separate two zones dominated by Hindus and Muslims. Warring members of the two communities gathered at Sardarati and College Para around 4 pm, giving the authorities a few anxious moments. “Luckily, things settled down after an hour,” said Pintu Hati, a resident of Harishpur.

Nasim Akhtar, the Basirhat police station in-charge, was transferred the same evening.

BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said he would present the governor with a memorandum demanding the dismissal of the Mamata Banerjee government in favour of President’s rule on Saturday. The party will organise a protest rally in Kolkata that afternoon.

As local residents have been venting their frustration at the ruling party since Thursday afternoon, Trinamool Congress offices were found to be either locked or vandalised in areas such as Bibipur, Harishpur, Bhyabla and Bodhotola. “All ruling party leaders seem to have left Basirhat. None of them can be seen,” said Somnath Chatterjee, a resident.

Chatterjee resides near the house of Kartik Ghosh, the only person to have been killed in the violence that broke out over a Facebook post on Sunday. Ghosh was attacked with sharp weapons while he was returning home by motorcycle on Wednesday afternoon.

The residence of Tapas Sarkar, chairman of the Basirhat municipality, was attacked in Bodhotola. Basirhat Choumatha vice-chairman Sudeb Saha also got a taste of mob fury after miscreants stoned his house. Neither Sarkar nor Saha were seen in the area ever since.