West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday insisted that her government will press for a judicial inquiry into incidents of communal violence at Basirhat sub-division of North 24-Parganas district. The state witnessed a fresh bout of violence as clashes broke out between members of two communities at Baduria region earlier this week over an “objectionable” Facebook post by a 17-year-old class X student.
Earlier in the day, a BJP central team comprising party MPs Meenakshi Lekhi, Om Mathur and Satyapal Singh was prevented by the police from visiting the riot-hit Basirhat and were subsequently detained following a heated exchange with the police. Lekhi also asked the police if the situation was under control in Basirhat, as claimed by the Mamata-led government, why were they not allowed to go there? “We are MPs and only we three will go there. You accompany us,” she told policemen. However, the police refused to give permission for them to proceed ahead.
On Friday, delegations of various political parties were also stopped from visiting the riot-hit areas in Basirhat, around 80 kms from Kolkata, by the police. Internet services were also suspended as region remained on the edge. Ignoring an appeal by CM Banerjee, MP Roopa Ganguly-led BJP delegation was detained by the police at Micheal Nagar near Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport while they were heading towards Baduria.
Reflecting on the detention, a senior police officer of Bidhannagar Police Commissionerate said, “We told the BJP leaders that they will not be allowed to proceed as per the decision of the administration. The situation is still tense. But they were adamant and said either they will court arrest or proceed towards the affected area. So we had to detain them.” The officer further said the leaders were subsequently brought to the airport police station.
Meanwhile, a 65-year-old man succumbed to stab wounds on Thursday in the communal clashes that erupted in Basirhat. Police identified the victim as Kartik Chandra Ghosh, a resident of Basirhat. Three others were also injured in the violence and are being treated at the hospital, said police.
The police also prevented the Left and Congress leaders from moving towards the riot-hit areas citing the law and order situation. “We were stopped near Ashoknagar area on the ground that it might create a law and order problem. But we were not going there with any political motive. We were going there to meet the people affected by the communal clashes,” Left Front Legislature Party leader Sujan Chakraborty said. Meanwhile, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh had said they would meet Governor KN Tripathi and demand the imposition of President’s rule in the state.
Situation on the ground
The state government claimed that the situation was under control in Baduria, Swarupnagar, Deganga and Basirhat, which had witnessed violence. Prohibitory orders have been imposed in these areas, though no untoward incident was reported. Shops and schools remained closed and the transportation was badly affected as people in the troubled areas chose to stay indoors. A senior state government official said police and paramilitary force personnel conducted intense patrolling in the wake of prevailing situation. Basirhat police inspector in-charge, Nasim Akhtar, was also transferred by the administration and Duttapukur police station in-charge Biswajit Bandopadhyay was made in-charge of Basirhat in place of Akhtar.
Meanwhile, Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu described the communal violence in Basirhat as “unfortunate” and urged the state government to take effective steps to protect all people – “whether minority or majority”.
What exactly happened?
A Facebook post showing “objectionable images” linked to the Prophet and Kaaba Sharif at Mecca was the genesis of the communal violence. Since it was being widely circulated, a mob vandalised shops and homes, and set ablaze vehicles, triggering retaliatory violence. According to police, the Facebook post was put up by a Class XI student who has been detained. However, the student has denied putting it up.
With PTI inputs