Trinamool Congress and opposition BJP traded accusations over the violence on Ram Navami in West Bengal’s Howrah, with the ruling party accusing the saffron camp of disrupting the peace and harmony in the state. The BJP hit back with serious allegations, saying chief minister Mamata Banerjee had “orchestrated” the whole incident for “Muslim votes”.
Both parties shared evidence of the violence on Twitter – the TMC showing clips of people in the Ram Navami procession holding guns and other weapons, and the BJP releasing a video of some men vandalising shops and hurling stones at Rapid Action Force (RAF) and police.
At a press conference on Friday, TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee went so far as to say the BJP had “pre-planned” the violence in Howrah to “spoil the atmosphere and create enmity among people”.
“Howrah violence was pre-planned. From Shyambazar, a BJP leader was asking people to keep their eyes on the television screens. Why? Just a day before, that leader met with the home minister,” Abhishek said, claiming that there were intelligence inputs suggesting that the violence was a deep-rooted conspiracy hatched by the BJP.
“Why did such an incident take place during Ram Navami?” asked the Diamond Harbour MP. He also claimed that Ram Navami clashes had never taken place in the state from 2011 when the TMC came to power to 2014, and started since 2015-16 when the BJP got a toehold in the state’s politics.
“Who has imported this culture to Bengal? What does Lord Rama have to do with a pistol?” he asked.
“BJP’s dangabaji formula at work again. Provoke and instigate communities against each other. Supply weapons to incite violence. Create communal tension deliberately. Reap political benefits. A classic unholy blueprint right out of the @BJP4India playbook!” he tweeted.
BJP’s DANGABAJI FORMULA at work again: Provoke & instigate communities against each other.
Supply weapons to incite violence.
⚔️Create communal tension deliberately.
Reap political benefits.
A classic unholy blueprint right out of the @BJP4India playbook! pic.twitter.com/HKZ0BmIlCm
— Abhishek Banerjee (@abhishekaitc) March 31, 2023
Slamming the state government, leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikari called the chief minister “useless” and demanded her resignation.
“Police (home) minister (Mamata Banerjee) is useless. Her resignation is the only solution. I sent a letter to the union home minister and governor yesterday (Thursday). Today, I approached the high court… The court should step forward,” Adhikari said in a press meet, alleging appeasement politics of the TMC government that had failed to rein in “anti-national forces”.
According to a report published by news agency ANI, Adhikari also called police “silent spectators”. “Police is not doing their work. They are silent spectators. All the houses of Hindus have been vandalised. All Hindus in the Kazipara area had to flee for their lives,” he told ANI.
Situation is completely out of control in Howrah. Mobs turn violent. After attack on Ramnavami Shobha Yatra, fresh violence erupts in Shibpur area of Howrah. Media has been attacked. Law and order is a state subject and Bengal Home Minister Mamata Banerjee has failed completely… pic.twitter.com/EbKWN7TlwV— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) March 31, 2023
He also claimed that the police commissioner had refused to meet him. Asked about the video shared by the TMC, Adhikari said, “BJP activists never believe in carrying weapons, including firearms in public, unlike the Trinamool Congress. Let the TMC provide evidence about the participation of our activists with firearms in the procession. We will take action against him.”
State BJP chief Sukanta Majumdar accused Mamata of orchestrating the violence in Howrah to “retain Muslim votes” and said he, too, had written to union home minister Amit Shah – who later took stock of the situation and spoke to governor CV Ananda Bose. Majumdar also demanded an NIA inquiry into the violence in Howrah.
“Amit Shah spoke to me over the phone and gave an assurance that he will monitor the entire situation and look into why the violence happened,” he said. “This whole violence has been orchestrated by Mamata Banerjee. She has done this to retain her Muslim votes because that vote bank is diminishing.”
The TMC, which has held the position that the Ram Navami procession took a route where it did not have permission, said the Howrah Police Commissionerate had not received any reply on details of permission copy.
“There was no reply to Howrah Police Commissionerate regarding details of permission copy, exact number of participants and beginning and end of the rally. They did not submit any documents but started taking out a procession on the route that was not permitted,” Abhishek said, adding, “if there is any lapse on the police side, action will be taken.”
The governor, meanwhile, visited the violence-affected area in Shibpur on Friday to take stock of the situation, even as Adhikari filed a PIL before the Calcutta High Court regarding the incidents of violence in Howrah and Dalkhola, praying for an NIA probe and immediate deployment of central forces in affected areas. The PIL will be up for hearing on April 3.
Violence broke out on Thursday evening between two groups when a Ram Navami procession was taken out at Kazipara in Howrah. Several vehicles, including some belonging to the police, were torched and shops and auto-rickshaws ransacked. In fresh unrest, policemen deployed at Kazipara were pelted with stones on Friday afternoon.
(With PTI inputs)
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