Violence again erupts in Bengal over Prophet remarks, CM transfers 2 top cops
At least 60 people were arrested and booked under IPC sections that deal with rioting, attempt to murder and causing damage to public properties, police said
Violent protests over the controversial comments on Prophet Mohammed continued in West Bengal on Saturday with the state government suspending internet services in parts of Murshidabad and Howrah districts and taking action against top police officials.
On Friday, nationwide protests were held against the comments made by former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal. While the demonstrations were largely peaceful in most places, pockets of Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal reported stone-pelting and arson,which left at least two dead and several injured.
The Centre has maintained that the remarks by individuals denigrating the religious personality “do not, in any manner, reflect the views of the government of India”.
In Bengal, fresh violence was reported from Howrah’s Panchla Bazaar after protesters allegedly clashed with the police and set several houses, shops and vehicles on fire. The administration has imposed prohibitory orders till June 15. Internet services also remained suspended across the district till June 13, officials said. Several trains also were also cancelled. Internet services were also suspended in some areas of the Murshidabad district after some of the protesters pelted stones at the Beldanga police station on Friday.
Clashes between the police and protestors were also reported from Rejinagar in Murshidabad district. At least 12 police personnel were injured. Protestors had blocked the National Highway 34 for more than two hours, and when the officials went to clear the road, the mob attacked the cops, said an official familiar with the matter. Police fired tear gas shells to disperse the mob, the official added.
At least 60 people were arrested and booked under IPC sections that deal with rioting, attempt to murder and causing damage to public properties, among others, in connection with violence in Howrah district, police said on Saturday.
“Police were just mute spectators. They hardly did anything as the mob went on a rampage. Many families have fled from the area as houses were set on fire,” said Asish Das, a local resident.
Hitting out at the BJP, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said some political parties want to engineer riots and questioned why the people should suffer for the BJP’s “sins”.
“As I have said before, violent incidents have been taking place in Howrah for two days now. There are some political parties behind this who want to cause riots but these things will not be tolerated and strict action will be taken against all of them who indulged in violence. Why should the common people suffer because of BJP’s sins?” Banerjee tweeted on Saturday.
Later in the day, the commissioner of Howrah city police, C Sudhakar, and the superintendent of Howrah (rural), Saumya Roy, were transferred.
In an order issued later in the day, the state administration named Praveen Tripathi, Additional CP of Kolkata Police, as the new Commissioner of Police of Howrah City. Swathi Bhangalia, DCP (South West) of Kolkata Police, was made the new SP of Howrah (Rural), it added.
“These appointments have been initiated in the interest of public service,” the order stated.
Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar expressed concern over the “worsening” law and order situation in the state and appealed to the CM to sternly deal with lawbreakers.
“Concerned at worsening law & order situation. Inaction @chief_west @WBPolice @KolkataPolice is an unfortunate endorsement of the criminality of law violators. Appeal #MamataBanerjee to sternly deal with lawbreakers. All involved be identified and arrested,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, BJP’s state unit president Sukanta Majumdar was arrested on Saturday afternoon when he tried to visit the violence-hit Howrah district, police said.
“Majumdar was trying to travel to Howrah where prohibitory orders under CrPC 144 have been clamped. His visit could have created a law and order situation. This is a preventive arrest,” a senior police officer said.
Majumdar, however, said: “I was kept under house arrest in the morning. When I challenged the police, they couldn’t show any documents. Later, I was arrested when I tried to enter Howrah.”
A scuffle also broke out between the police and BJP workers outside Majumdar’s house when he tried to go out and the police stopped him.
“Mamata Banerjee’s administration is trying to hide the truth. She is inciting violence. I have requested the Governor to direct the state’s chief secretary to call in central forces or the army to tackle the deteriorating law and order situation,” said Suvendu Adhikary, leader of the opposition in the state Legislative Assembly.
BJP MP Saumitra Khan sent a letter to Union home minister Amit Shah to deploy central forces as violence continued in Howrah.
“A 47-year-old man K Sreenu, who was coming from Hyderabad after his treatment, died on the East Coast Express died in the train. The train got stuck at Deulti station for more than seven hours on Friday. He was travelling in the S2 compartment,” said a spokesperson of South Eastern Railway.
“Majumdar and Adhikary should stop inciting violence as this would further aggravate the situation. Some stray incidents took place in one or two places in the Howrah district. The law and order is fine across the state. Those who indulged in violence are acting as agents of the BJP,” said Firhad Hakim, state minister.