Rally turns violent, BJP worker killed in Bengal
A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker died and several other people were injured in pitched battles between political workers and policemen during a planned rally in Siliguri town in north Bengal on Monday.
The police lobbed tear gas shells and used water cannons to stop BJP workers and leaders from moving towards Uttar Kanya, the state secretariat in north Bengal, violating prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). The police also used a pink dye in the water to mark the agitators.
In response, workers from the BJP and its young wing physically clashed with police and pelted stones at them in at least four places in north Bengal’s largest city. The rally was part of the BJP’s ongoing protests against the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in the run-up to assembly polls early next year.
The BJP alleged that a party worker identified as Ulen Rai from Gajoldoba in Jalpaiguri district was beaten to death by the police during lathi charge. However, police claimed there was no lathicharge and the cause of death was being ascertained.
“Today in Siliguri, serious acts of violence were committed by the supporters of a political party during their protest program. They resorted to arson, brick-batting, firing and vandalism of govt property. Police showed restraint and didn’t do lathi charge or used firearms. Only water cannons and tear gas were used to disperse the violent crowd. However, death of a person has been reported. Body is being sent for PM (postmortem examination),” the West Bengal Police tweeted in the evening.
To mark its protest, the BJP will observe a 12-hour bandh on Tuesday in north Bengal districts where it won seven of eight Lok Sabha seats in the 2019 general elections. BJP workers held agitations in Nadia, East Burdwan, Howrah, Kolkata and other districts on Monday evening.
“In no state will you see the government crushing a peaceful democratic movement in this manner. Constitutional experts need to take a note of this,” Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) president Tejasvi Surya said. BJP’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, national secretary Arvind Menon, state president Dilip Ghosh and several Lok Sabha members took part in the rally.
The party said 40 workers, including six women, were injured. Senior party leaders met governor Jagdeep Dhankhar in Kolkata and demanded a judicial probe into the death of Rai, 50. He died at a private hospital shortly after sustaining an injury in the chest.
In the evening, Dhankhar reacted sharply to the state police’s response. “Am stunned and shocked at this judgmental stance @WBPolice. With such a finding recorded and disseminated in public domain there can be no semblance of fair investigation @MamataOfficial!” the governor tweeted.
The clashes took place in at least four places, including Tinbatti More and Phoolbari Bazar. Several women in the processions fell ill after inhaling the tear gas. BJP and BYJM workers, who were leading two processions from opposite directions, were spotted pelting stones at the police when they were stopped from moving towards Uttar Kanya.
The ruling Trinamool Congress condemned the BJP . “The incident was a public display of the violence the BJP believes in. Its workers provoked the police to open fire. I thank the police for handling the situation. The BJP will fail to create disturbance in the state,” said Saugata Roy, TMC Lok Sabha member and party spokesperson.