Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists set on fire the national flag of Pakistan and effigies of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed and separatist leaders Masarat Alam and Syed Ali Shah Geelani at the Bangabasi Crossing in Howrah on Sunday.
Around 200 activists gathered in front of Howrah Mills Co Ltd and marched up to Bangabasi Crossing, raising slogans like “Gaddaro ko khatam karo” and “Pakistan murdabad”. They demanded that a strong message be sent to those who live in India and directly or indirectly support Pakistan and it cause.
“We don’t want Bengal to become another Bangladesh. It is time that you prove yourself as an Indian if you want to stay in India. One who acts in favour of or supports Pakistan will face the music. The message should also be sent to Pakistan that we want terrorists like Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi behind bars and tried in a fast-track court,” said Ashok Srivastava, VHP in-charge of South Bengal. He added that from May, such protests will take place every month across Bengal against any anti-national activity.
The protest, however, drew the ire of political parties. Senior Trinamool Congress leader and state Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee said: “It is not only illegal but unethical… but when did these people bother about ethics. The police will look into the matter and book offenders.”
Even the state BJP did not approve of the protest. BJP MLA Samik Bhattcharya said, “Burning of the national flag of any country is not permissible in any democracy. I don’t approve of it.”
The Congress and CPM described the protest as a political stunt. State Congress president Adhir Chowdhury said it was a ploy to create communal divide in the state. “But their attempts will fail and people will see through it. Setting a national flag on fire is a condemnable act,” he added.
Senior CPM leader Mohammed Selim said: “The members of Sangh Parivar are yet to realise that they are in power. They are failing to send the message across the border. They are indulging in such stunts to gain ground in Bengal but the manner is incorrect. Bengal is a place where politics is ideology-based. They are trying to make it emotive…”