UNION MINISTER Babul Supriyo on Thursday threatened to “skin” some people who shouted slogans against him when he visited his constituency of Asansol, one of the areas hit by communal violence following Ram Navami processions across the state.
According to sources, Supriyo was on his way to a relief camp in Kalyanpur, in Asansol, when he was stopped by the police. He was booked for violating prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC and under Sections 146, 147, 148 (rioting) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), a non-bailable offence. He is alleged to have assaulted senior IPS officer Rupesh Kumar.
As some people approached him, news channels showed Supriyo telling them, “Aami ki apnader ke bolbo lorai koro? Ami chole jabo, apnader opor goli cholbe (Will I ask you to fight? I will leave and you will come under fire).”
But when a person asked him to “go back” and leave them alone, Supriyo was heard shouting, “Chamra guthiye debo ekdom… (Will skin them alive).”
When contacted, Supriyo told The Indian Express: “There were two-three miscreants belonging to the TMC who were trying to create panic. They were shouting slogans against me while I was trying to meet the victims. I stopped my vehicle when I saw two elderly women weeping. They wanted to meet me and were talking about police inaction in the area… The miscreants pushed away the women… The police should have driven away the miscreants, but targeted me instead. If I said ‘chamra guthiye debo (will skin alive)’, it was out of pure anger targeted at those miscreants.”
“As the local MP, it is my responsibility to stand by the people who are in trouble, but the police, without any reason, stopped me from meeting them. Since morning, I have been trying to call up senior police officers and district officials, but they don’t have time to meet me. The Rapid Action Force surrounded me as if I am a criminal. When people want to share their plight with me, how can you stop me? As a minister, if the police tells me not to enter a area where prohibitory orders are in force, I will not break the law. Law and order is a state subject. I respect that, but this is not acceptable,” he said.
In a complaint at the Asansol South police station, Supriyo said: “I would like to lodge an official complaint against Rupesh Kumar (IPS) of West Bengal Police… for assaulting me and hitting me with his helmet, despite warning him several times not to touch me.”
Senior TMC leader and Mayor of Asansol Municipal Corporation, Jitendra Tiwari, accused Supriyo of trying to disturb peace in the area. “When Raniganj was burning, he was relaxing in a hotel. Now, they are trying to create trouble. This is not the time to do politics. I request them to let the police do their work,” he said.
Clashes broke out over a Ram Navami procession in Raniganj on Monday, leaving one person, Chhote Yadav, 35, dead and several police officers injured. It spread to neighbouring Asansol the next day, where a 16-year-old youth, Sibtulla Rashidi, was killed.
On Sunday, two other people, S K Sahjahan in Purulia and Maqsood Khan in Kankinara, were killed in violence triggered by Ram Navami processions.
“So far, 60 have been arrested in Asansol and we have also recovered some arms,” said a top IPS officer.
On her return from Delhi on Thursday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called an emergency meeting with senior police officers to take stock of the situation. She is learnt to have instructed the police to take strict measures to ensure security for Hanuman Jayanti on Saturday.
The state government has suspended Internet services in Raniganj and Asansol, in West Burdwan district, till March 30.
Meanwhile, district BJP leaders said they had set up two camps — in Kalyanpur and Baktarnagar areas of Asansol. “There are over 500 people in camps in Asansol, including women and children. Various organisations and individuals are providing food,” said Lakshman Gorui, BJP district president in Asansol.
“We are taking care of 1,700 people who have fled their homes. You can say ‘Hindu Palayan’ has started in Bengal. The government is not willing to take the Centre’s help. Law and order has completely broken down,” said Sayantan Basu, BJP state secretary.
“Eighteen of our supporters are admitted in hospital, some are critical. But since Section 144 has been imposed, we can’t even go and visit them. The administration and police are not helping us. Instead, they are arresting innocent youths who took part in the rally,” said Gorui.
“Like every year, we took out a peaceful rally on Monday. But when we were crossing Rail Par area, stones were pelted on us. Our rally was attacked, vehicles which had pictures of Ram were set on fire,” he claimed.