ONE PERSON was killed and five policemen injured in clashes as the BJP and Sangh Parivar outfits, in defiance of the state government’s ban, organised armed rallies across West Bengal on the occasion of Ram Navami on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders also organised Ram Navami rallies across the state. Police sources said at least two of these, in North 24 Parganas, were armed rallies.
Police said Sheikh Sahjahan (50) died after he was trapped in a clash between Bajrang Dal activists and police forces in Purulia district on Sunday afternoon. The incident occurred in Beldi village, under Arsha police station, a Muslim-dominated area.
“The clashes broke out when the police were trying to stop some people from taking part in an armed procession. Preliminary investigations revealed that Sahjahan suffered fatal injuries after he was trapped in the clashes. He was rushed to a district hospital where he was declared dead,” said Joy Biswas, SP, Purulia.
He said five policemen were also injured. “We have arrested 16 persons in this connection so far. The situation at Beldi continues to be tense and additional police forces have been deployed there,” he said.
A police source said while it was not clear how Sahjahan died, he appeared to have been beaten up with sticks.
After news of the death spread, some villagers reportedly had an altercation with DSP Subrata Pal and other policemen and later beat them up. “Five policemen have been injured, including a DSP who is critical and has been shifted to SSKM Hospital,” said Anuj Sharma, ADG, Law and Order.
Earlier in the day, announcing his party’s decision to defy the state government’s ban on armed processions, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh said: “We will bring out processions with swords, tridents and maces throughout the state. If they try to stop us, there will be trouble. There is a tradition of carrying arms, and we will follow it. The Ram Mandir will soon come up.” Carrying a sword, Ghosh later participated in a rally in Kharagpur, in West Midnapore district — his assembly constituency.
Police sources said even schoolchildren were seen carrying knives, swords and tridents in some districts of the state, including at Chinsurah in Hooghly district, where the rally was led by senior BJP leader Rahul Sinha. Minor scuffles were reported from Chinsurah and Muslim-dominated Qazipara in Howrah district.
“People of Bengal will not accept this politics on Ram. Ram is revered and worshipped across the country and they (BJP) are celebrating it with DJs and music. This is an insult,” said TMC leader and State Education Minister Partha Chatterjee.
“Involving minors in an armed procession is a serious offence and those who are responsible should be punished. I have asked the district magistrate and police personnel to take action,” said West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights chairperson Ananya Chatterjee.
Meanwhile, TMC leaders Saugata Roy, Bratya Basu, Gautam Deb and Asish Banerjee were among those who participated in Ram Navami rallies across the state. “No one can claim ownership of Ram. What they are doing in the name of Ram Navami is sheer hooliganism. What we have done is in accordance with our culture. We have taken out rallies in a pleasant environment and concluded it peacefully,” said TMC’s North Bengal MLA Sourav Chakraborty.