One killed, five injured in Bengal as Bajarang Dal activists clash with police over Ram Navami procession

The rally, allegedly organised by Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, had minor boys and girls brandishing arms like swords and knives while chanting the name of Lord Ram.

india Updated: Mar 25, 2018 20:55 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata/Midnapore
West Bengal,Ram Navami,Purulia
West Bengal BJP Mahila Morcha Chief Locket Chatterjee holds a 'trishul' during a religious procession to celebrate Ram Navami in Birbhum on Sunday.(PTI Photo)

A 50- year-old man was killed and five others injured in a clash between police and Bajrang Dal activists in West Bengal’s Purulia district on Sunday noon over an armed procession brought out by the latter on the occasion of Ram Navami.

The deceased, identified as S K Sajahan, was caught in the mêlée.

The clash broke out at minority- dominated Beldi village when the police tried to stop Bajrang Dal activists from bringing out a Ram Navami rally brandishing arms.

The West Bengal government had put a ban on carrying weapons during the religious processions, drawing flak from the opposition BJP and right-wing organisations.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee, however, later eased the blanket ban, stating only those organisations that are celebrating the occasion by taking out armed procession for more than a decade would be permitted to carry weapons.

“The clash ensued when police tried to stop an armed procession being taken out by the Bajrang Dal activists. Sahajhan, along with some other villagers, got trapped in the clash in which he received fatal injuries. He was rushed to a district hospital, where he was declared dead on Sunday afternoon,” Purulia superintendent of Police Joy Biswas said.

Biswas also said five villagers sustained severe injuries in the clashes.

“We have so far arrested 16 persons in this connection. The situation at Beldi continues to be tensed following the incident and a huge police contingent has been deployed there,” he added.

Members of the Bajrang Dal, an affiliate of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), also brought out an armed procession at Purulia town on Sunday morning. Minors were seen participating at the march brandishing sharp swords and pointed tridents, defying the government’s directive.

“Involving minors in armed procession is a serious offense and those who are responsible for this should be punished. I have contacted the district magistrate and police personnel, and urged them to take action,” said Ananya Chatterjee, the chairman of the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Tension over Ram Navami rallies started mounting since Sunday morning after state BJP president Dilip Ghosh gave a war cry to defy the state government’s ban.

“We will bring out processions with swords, tridents and mace throughout the state,” Ghosh said on Sunday morning

Later on Sunday afternoon, he participated in a procession with arms at Kharagpur in West Midnapore district, the constituency he represents in the state assembly. However, the procession ended peacefully amid strong police presence.

A similar procession led by another senior BJP leader Rahul Sinha in the state witnessed participation of school children with swords and tridents.

At Chinsurah in Hooghly district tension mounted after Trinamool supporters lead by local councilor Sunil Malakar stopped BJP supporters from worshipping arms publicly in front of a Ram temple in the morning. A minor scuffle broke out between the two groups.

At Kolkata, both the rallies brought out by the BJP were without arms.

Meanwhile, ruling Trinamool leaders also brought out separate rallies throughout the state to mark the occasion, which has been at the centre of heated-political debates in the state.

First Published: Mar 25, 2018 18:54 IST