BJP’s agitation in Kolkata leads to pitched battle, arson
The agitators set fire to a police vehicle. Police deployed drones to identify locations of crucial leaders and size of crowd.Updated: May 25, 2017 18:51 IST
Hundreds of BJP workers led by their state and central leaders clashed with the police, set a jeep on fire and damaged vehicles on Thursday as the party’s Lalbazar agitation ended in chaos on Brabourne Road, Bentinck Road, Phears Lane and Bowbazar Street. The police used lathi and teargas to disperse the crowds.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh, national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and more than a hundred BJP supporters were injured. Vijayvargiya, Ghosh, Mahila Morcha president Roopa Ganguly and several others were arrested.
Though the police cracked down after the agitators set a jeep on fire and lobbed loud bombs, the men in uniform appeared less marauding than they were on May 22, when the CPI(M) led a much bigger crowd towards Nabanna, the state secretariat. Also, journalists covering Thursday’s agitation, did not find themselves at the receiving end of police lathis.
Incidentally, chief minister Mamata Banerjee was in a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi when the BJP-police showdown went live on television. “There is no issue to agitate about. The CPI(M) and BJP are competing each other for the second position in Bengal politics. They attacked the police first,” said Banerjee, emerging from the meeting, and showed photos and videos stored in her phone as evidence. “Till a few days ago, both parties were reduced to mere signboards. Today, they are practising goondaism,” she said.
“A petrol bomb was hurled at the police without provocation. Property of metro rail was vandalised at Central station. More than 20 police personnel were injured. A total of 141 persons were arrested,” said Supratim Sarkar, joint commissioner (HQ), Kolkata Police.
Among those arrested were BJP leaders such as Dilip Ghosh, Rahul Sinha, Kailash Vijayvargiya and Roopa Ganguly.
On Thursday, the police used a strategy that left BJP supporters clueless and made the task of mob dispersal easy. Using areal drones, they quickly identified the location of top BJP leaders and whisked them away much before the large processions could come close to Lalbazar. With the leaders in police custody, the followers didn’t know what to do. The police chased them away.
The only place where a couple of tear gas shells were lobbed and water cannon used was Brabourne Road where BJP activists led Dilip Ghosh had to be stopped. A couple of loud bombs were also hurled, allegedly by the BJP activists. Police arrested Ghosh. BJP leaders however claimed that the bombs, which apparently had no splinters, were hurled by “outsiders.”
The procession at B B Ganguly Street was led by Vijayvargiya while at Bentink Street, former state president Rahul Sinha and Roopa Ganguly steered the agitation. However, all three were arrested before the processions could reach the barricades. Frustrated, BJP supporters set a police vehicle on fire and smashed the windows of some other vehicles on B B Ganguly Street.
The overall normalcy around Dalhousie Square was evident from the fact that almost all the shops including three gun shops had their shutters open. “We even sold a couple of guns today while the agitation was on,” said a shop owners.
“The BJP does not believe in violence and hence the credit for less bloodshed goes to the party. Whatever happened was because of the unprovoked attack on our supporters by the police,” said Dilip Ghosh.
CPI(M) politburo member Mohammad Salim alleged the agitation was entirely staged. “BJP organised an agitation in Kolkata while Mamata Banerjee met Modi in Delhi. This exposes the dichotomy on both sides,” he said.
First Published: May 25, 2017 18:51 IST