A year after communal violence erupted in Basirhat-Baduria area of North 24 Parganas over a controversial Facebook post about the Prophet, the area has grown tense once more, this time over an “anti-Hindu” video that has gone viral. Around 11 people, including the youth who uploaded the video, were arrested on Wednesday, police said.
While the video was uploaded last week, local residents took out rallies and blocked roads in protest on Tuesday. The road blocks were lifted and rallies dispersed within hours by police, while internet services were suspended by the local administration.
On Wednesday, the youth who had uploaded the video was arrested from Howrah. Ten others, including BJP workers who allegedly took part in the agitation, were also arrested in Basirhat for inciting communal discord, police said. “The area is peaceful now. We have taken precautionary measures. All those involved have been arrested,” said SP, Basirhat, K Sabri Rajkumar.
Police sources said that Sheikh Sahil, a Howrah-based youth who uploaded the video, was booked under IPC section 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) after local residents filed a complaint against him at Basirhat police station.
“The video has no relevance to Basirhat area…Some people tried to create tension in the area. People blocked roads and there was a scuffle between protesters and police. A suo motu case was registered and all those creating tension in the area were arrested,” said a local police officer.
After the area grew tense, Sahil posted a second video on Facebook in which he says, “I am Sheikh Sahil. I had posted a video a couple of days ago because of which Hindu brothers and sisters have been deeply hurt, so I am asking you for your forgiveness. I will never make such a mistake again. I am also requesting the police that I am just a kid and this was a childish mistake.’’
“The video had been doing the rounds for a while. But on Tuesday morning, matters came to a head at a tea stall in Haroa Khasbalanda gram panchayat area. Every morning, at around 5.30 – 6 am, local residents, both Hindus and Muslims, come to the tea stall. That day, some Hindu men were watching the video and saying that such things should not happen. The Muslim customers retorted and a heated argument ensued. It was after this argument that residents of three villages — Charbari, Gorerdanga and Bontosha — an adivasi-dominated area, came out in protest. Their demand was that the youth be arrested and punished. They blocked the roads. The police reached within hours and lifted the blocks. The problem is that the police also lathicharged the crowds and beat up the protesters, which angered them more,’’ said a witness on condition of anonymity.
A local resident claimed that the initial protests were led by a local TMC leader. Eighteen persons were detained, but the TMC leader and other party workers were let off later. Police did not confirm the same.
Police said the ten arrested — BJP youth leaders Sudip Mondal, Swapan Mondal, Surojit Mondal, Samrat Mondal, Srikanto Mondal, Gobinda Mondal, Shyamal Mondal, Shadeb Mondal, Subrato Mondal and Lakhikanta Mondal — had been remanded to judicial custody till August 21.
The accused have been booked under IPC sections including 147 (rioting), 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 307 (attempt to murder),354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and other charges.
“The protests were not aimed at Muslims. It was not about Hindus or Muslims. It was about the spreading of offensive videos, whichever community they may be against. The police never do anything about this. Instead of addressing the issue, the police attacked us instead. Even the TMC leaders were protesting, but they were let off. The police selectively arrested the BJP boys. And they accuse us of spreading communalism. Hindus and Muslims have lived together in harmony in this area for years,’’ said BJP’s former youth president Kunal Roy, a resident of Charabari village in Haroa.
TMC’s Haroa panchayat samiti chief Abdul Khalek Mollah said, “The situation is under control now. The police acted promptly and effectively. This is all I will say about the matter right now.’’
“Unlike the incident that had taken place last year, police were more active and took prompt action. We didn’t even know about the video until some people gathered and blocked the road in Haroa. People who react to videos posted on social media have hidden agendas, be it from any religion. I couldn’t even attend office that day. Now that internet is suspended we are facing problems but if it ensures peace in the area, we are ready to adjust,” said a local resident who works as a clerk in a private company.