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Police crack down on BJP protest march in Kolkata

The BJP planned the march to the Kolkata Police headquarters to protest the murder of its workers in Basirhat and highlight the alleged deterioration of law and order in Bengal.

india Updated: Jun 14, 2019 08:07 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, Kolkata/Berhampur
Bengal,BJP,Kolkata Police
Police use water canons to disperse BJP workers as they try to push through a layer of barricade near the Kolkata Police headquarters.(Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

Chaos gripped the heart of Kolkata on Wednesday after the police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers participating in a rally to protest political violence in the state, where the governor has called a meeting of four parties to discuss law-and-order.

The BJP, which was demonstrating against the killing of two of its workers in Basirhat in North-24 Parganas district, said the police action was “unprovoked” and renewed its call to oust the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government led by chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

The state administration or the police did not comment on Wednesday’s action, which came after a massive protest by the BJP spilled on to the streets of the capital city, bringing traffic movement to a standstill.

Watch | ‘Doctors protest in WB part of conspiracy by BJP, CPM’: Mamata Banerjee

The BJP, once considered a fringe player in the state, bagged 18 of the 42 seats in the recently held Lok Sabha elections — just four less than what the TMC could secure, emerging as the main challenger to Banerjee’s party in the 2021 assembly elections.

The two parties are locked in a fierce standoff in the state, where political killings and violence have set alarm bells ringing and prompted the Union home ministry to “strongly advise” the administration to maintain peace and law and order. Both the BJP and the Trinamool accuse each other of fomenting trouble.

Banerjee also claims that there is a conspiracy to topple her government.

The BJP claimed several of those who took part in the 2km rally till the Kolkata Police headquarters took ill due to tear gas. The rally was held against the Basirhat violence, in which a Trinamool supporter was also killed. The BJP says five more of its workers have been missing since Saturday’s clashes, a charge denied by CM Banerjee.

“Tear gas shells and water cannons were used when the procession was far away from Lalbazar [where the police headquarters are]. We sat on the main road in protest. Batons were charged,” said BJP Bengal unit president Dilip Ghosh, who also accused the police of not keeping ambulances ready for those injured.

Later, Ghosh said at a press conference that over 10 BJP workers, including state general secretary Raju Banerjee, were injured and admitted to two different hospitals.

“The police are not our enemy. We have sympathy for them. It is our misfortune that even IPS officers are asked to do domestic chores [of political leaders]. We came here to demand restoration of democracy and the rule of law in the state,” said Dilip Ghosh, who alleged that a tear gas shell landed on parliamentarian SS Ahluwalia.

As chaos reigned in Kolkata, governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, three days after he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah, called a meeting of four parties on Thursday to discuss post-poll violence.

A statement released by the Raj Bhavan said the meeting — of the Trinamool, BJP, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Congress — “will be useful in creating a harmonious situation whereby peace and harmony prevail in the state”.

BJP state president Ghosh welcomed the move. CM Banerjee’s nephew, Abhishek Banerjee, too said Trinamool leaders will attend the meeting called at Raj Bhavan.

Hours before the governor announced the peace meet, the half-burnt body of Asit Singha, a 47-year-old BJP supporter, was found in Englishbazar area of Malda district, about 326 km to the north of Kolkata. His wife accused a local Trinamool leader of the murder. The police, however, denied any political connection.

Malda police superintendent Alok Rajoria said, “On the basis of a written complaint, the police have started a probe. Raids are on to nab the accused.”

First Published: Jun 12, 2019 13:53 IST