A CPM delegation was on Tuesday stopped from visiting the violence-scarred area of Dhulagarh, as prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC remain in force a fortnight after clashes and arson broke out in the town in Howrah district of West Bengal. This comes three days after a BJP delegation was similarly stopped. The clashes had taken place on December 13, and again the following day. Locals say sporadic violence has flared up once in a while since then.
The CPM team comprised party general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Lok Sabha MP Mohammad Salim and MLA Sujan Chakraborty, among others.
Having addressed a public rally at Dhulagarh Chaurasta (crossing) and appealed for peace, the CPM leaders tried marching to the locality where arson and clashes had occurred when the police stopped them.
On December 24, a team of BJP MPs comprising former Mumbai Police commissioner Satyapal Singh, Jagadambika Pal and Rajya Sabha MP from West Bengal Roopa Ganguly were similarly stopped.
“If we are not being allowed to enter even now, and there is Section144 of CrPC imposed, it means the situation still hasn’t been brought under control,” Salim told The Indian Express later.
“Our demand is for the state government to bring normalcy immediately, and paying monetary compensation for those affected by violence.”
West Bengal BJP had earlier launched a statewide protest under the banner of “Ganatantra Bachao Andolan’’ on December 21. Last week, state party president Dilip Ghosh alleged, “Right-wing Mulsim outfits and SIMI activists have entered the area (Dhulagarh).” The TMC government, he alleged, “gives shelter to terrorists”.
Clashes broke out after a Milad-ul-Nabi procession was stopped, allegedly by some people from the Hindu community, on December 13. The police reportedly reached on time and handled the situation by making several arrests.
The following day, according to reports, some people from the Muslim community retaliated and attacked several shops and homes belonging to Hindu families. Soon, mobs from both communities lobbed handmade crude bombs at the other, a source said, forcing the police to fire teargas shells. Twenty-five people, from both communities, were arrested.
According to local police sources, the locally dominant community from either side was responsible for violence in their areas of dominance.
Several affected families, belonging to both communities, have since fled Dhulagarh, according to locals. Over several days, 69 shops had been gutted in the area, and 59 houses looted and set on fire, the police said.
Around 55 people have been arrested on charges of looting and arson from December 13 until Tuesday, and Rapid Action Force has been deployed in the town. Superintendent of Police, Howrah (Rural), Sabyasachi Raman Mishra has since been transferred.