Digha/Kolkata | West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday accused the BJP of organising violence during Ram Navami processions and asserted that she would not let any rioter go scot-free and warned that strict action would be taken against “dangabaaz” (rioters).
Addressing a rally in Purba Medinipur district, Banerjee also took a dig at Union Home Minister Amit Shah without naming him and pointed out that BJP had said if it comes to power in Bihar, it would hang rioters "upside down" and wondered why such action was not being taken against "their 'goondas'".
Clashes and instances of fire-bombing were reported from towns in the industrial belt of Hooghly and Howrah districts related to Ram Navami processions over the last few days including last night.
The unfolding of events also saw Bengal's Governor Dr CV Ananda Bose rushing from Darjeeling to visit violence-hit areas on Tuesday.
While state BJP leaders - Sukanta Majumdar and Suvendu Adhikari - demanded that central forces be deployed in violence-hit areas with article 355 of the constitution being invoked.
"The BJP is behind the violence in Hooghly and Howrah. They had brought in hired 'goondas' from other states to unleash violence in Bengal, which is not in our culture. They are defaming the Hindu religion by pitting one community against another. But rioters have no religion, they are just political goons. I appeal to everyone to maintain calm," she said.
Taking a dig at Union Home Minister Amit Shah, without naming him, she said, "The BJP said if the party comes to power in Bihar, it would hang rioters upside down. Then why are they not doing that to their `goondas' who are fomenting trouble in Bengal? Charity begins at home." Shah had made the remark during a recent public rally in Nawada district of Bihar, which has also witnessed communal clashes during Ram Navami.
Taking potshots at the CPI(M), she alleged that 'Baam' (Left) and 'Ram' (BJP) have joined hands against the TMC.
"I am on the phone constantly because we don't know when and where BJP will start violence," she said, adding that people in the “processions organised by BJP” have been found carrying weapons.
Bengal Police have arrested a man from Bihar's Munger for allegedly carrying a gun during a Ram Navami procession in Howrah district last week, a senior officer said on Tuesday.
"He has been arrested from Bihar's Munger. During interrogation, the youth admitted that he carried a revolver with him during the Ram Navami procession. He was seen in the video. We have handed over him to the state CID," the officer told PTI.
Banerjee said as people in Bengal didn't take part in violence, the BJP has started bringing in people from outside the State to incite violence.
"Bengal government is making all efforts to restore the livelihood of those affected by the violence. We had recently passed a law where losses suffered during organised protests would be compensated by attaching and auctioning off the alleged vandals' properties," she said.
"It is a criminal act. Under the garb of the Ram Navami procession, they are asking people to carry guns and swords to incite violence," she said.
The chief minister said she had never opposed Ram Navami processions, but BJP leaders were bringing in bulldozers, tractors, petrol bombs, guns and swords to these rallies.
Governor Bose after touring violence-hit areas in Rishra, said hooligans will not be allowed to take law into their hands.
The Centre and the state government will work together to root out mobocracy and there will be “solid action” on the part of law enforcement agencies, he promised reporters.
"We will never allow hooligans to take law into their hands. The Centre, state, political parties, media and people will join hands to root out mobocracy,” Bose said.
He also spoke to senior police officers of the district and locals to take stock of the situation.
Clashes were reported in Rishra on Sunday evening during a Ram Navami procession in which BJP national vice president Dilip Ghosh and party's Pursurah MLA Biman Ghosh were present. The MLA was injured and hospitalised.
Parts of nearby Serampore also witnessed incidents of vandalism following which prohibitory orders were imposed and Internet services suspended.
Bose had gone to the hill town in the northern part of the state for a G20 meeting.
Meanwhile, BJP's West Bengal president Sukanta Majumdar on Tuesday was stopped for the second consecutive day from visiting the riot-hit areas of Hooghly district by the police citing prohibitory orders.
The BJP state president who later met the Governor to appeal to him to intervene on the issue also wrote a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the afternoon "pointing at the worsening law and order situation in the riot-hit areas" and sought bringing in of central forces to control the situation.
Majumdar, demanded that central forces be immediately deployed in the trouble-hit areas and an NIA probe as the "state police have completely failed to control the situation", said if he is not allowed to join the protest at Battala, he will launch a sit in on that spot. His party colleague Suvendu Adhikari, leader of the opposition in the West Bengal assembly similarly demanded that, "Article 355 of the constitution be invoked and central forces be deployed" in the violence affected areas of Rishra and Shibpur.
Kolkata | Leader of opposition in West Bengal Suvendu Adhikari on Tuesday said Governor CV Ananda Bose must act to protect "nationalists", urging him to immediately recommend the Centre's intervention for handling the situation in violence-hit Hooghly and Howrah districts.
Speaking to reporters, Adhikari claimed Bose was yet to play an active role in the state's affairs like his predecessors.
"West Bengal had several renowned governors, from Gopal Krishna Gandhi to Jagdeep Dhankhar. We have seen how they played an active role. Unfortunately, we are yet to witness any such role of the present governor. He must act to protect the nationalists," the BJP leader said.
"We demand that the governor immediately recommend Centre's intervention to handle the situation in Rishra in Hooghly, and Shibpur in the Howrah district. Central forces should be deployed in those areas for at least a month," he said.
Reacting to Adhikari's statement, Bose said he welcomes such criticism and that critics are the best teachers.
"They are my illustrious predecessors. They are all great people, I am an ordinary human being. Comparison is only between comparables... I respect my friend Suvendu Adhikari for criticising me. Critics are the best teachers. He has held a mirror before me. I thank him for it. Please be critical, that will improve me," he told a press conference.
The governor visited the violence-hit areas of Hooghly district during the day, and said hooligans will not be allowed to take the law into their hands.
The ruling TMC said Adhikari's comment showed his lack of respect for Raj Bhavan.
"During Jagdeep Dhankhar's tenure, BJP leaders like Suvendu Adhikari used to behave as if Raj Bhavan was their second home. The comments by Adhikari reflect that they want the Raj Bhavan to turn into a BJP branch office," TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said.
State BJP president Sukanta Majumdar led a BJP delegation to the Raj Bhavan in the evening, and told Bose about their concerns regarding the situation in the two districts.
"We informed the governor about the worsening law and order situation in the state. We have requested him to immediately seek central intervention to protect the state from slipping into the hands of anti-nationals and goons," Majumdar said.