A massive Muslim protest rally against Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari for his alleged derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed turned violent in Malda district on Sunday, leading to arson and gunfire in which two persons reportedly sustained bullet injuries. The protesters set on fire about two dozen vehicles and attacked the Kaliachak Police Station.
The violence broke out when the protesters, who were taking out the rally on National Highway 34, came across a bus that was trying to negotiate past them. A group of protesters got into an argument with the driver of the bus and soon the situation spiralled out of control. As the passengers got off the bus, the protesters burnt it down.
A little later, a BSF vehicle, which was coming from Malda, was also set ablaze. The mob then turned towards the nearby Kaliachak Police Station. Eyewitnesses said the protesters drove out the policemen and set on fire part of the police station, including the barracks.
Sources said two persons, including an RSS activist from a nearby area who led a separate group of people to stop the protesters, were injured in the violence. Although RSS leaders said 35-year-old Gopal Tiwari was injured in firing, police could not confirm it.
RSS state secretary Jishnu Basu said Gopal Tiwari was an RSS activist of the area. “He was an RSS worker and had protested against the attack on the police station. He was shot in the leg and admitted to the hospital,” Basu told The Indian Express. The identity of the second person who was injured could not be confirmed.
As tension gripped the area, shops were immediately shut down. Police officers said the protesters also looted some nearby houses. RAF personnel were called in to control the situation.
Additional Superintendent of Police Dilip Hazra said, “There was a rally of about 2.5 lakh people, which took an ugly turn. About 25 vehicles, including some police vans, were set on fire. Policemen were beaten up but there was no severe injury. I have heard of one person sustaining a bullet injury but there is no official confirmation of it,” said Hazra.
According to sources, the rally began from Muslim-dominated Sujapur area under Kaliachak Police Station. Although authorities were trying to ascertain who organised the rally, sources said posters calling for the gathering against Kamlesh Tiwari’s remarks had been put up by a local Muslim organisation at the marketplace about five days ago.
Kamlesh Tiwari, the self-proclaimed national working president of Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, was arrested on December 2 last year following protests across the country over his alleged remarks. He is currently lodged at the Lucknow District Jail. The Lucknow police have invoked National Security Act against Tiwari.
A case under IPC sections 153-A (promoting enmity between groups on ground of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) was lodged against Tiwari at Lucknow’s Naka Hindola police station. The FIR alleged that Tiwari’s statement caused tension and led to protests by a community.
Circle Officer, Qaiserabgh area, Ramesh Kumar Bharti said investigation into the case is still on. He said NSA was invoked against him four days after his arrest.
[With ENS, Lucknow]