West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh and state Mahila Morcha chief Locket Chatterjee were on Monday booked for allegedly carrying arms during Ram Navami rallies, even as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee directed the police to not spare anyone who carried swords and other weapons during such processions in the state on Sunday.
Ghosh was booked at Kharagpur Town police station for allegedly carrying a sword at a rally in West Midnapore’s Kharagpur — his assembly constituency. “A case has been lodged against Dilip Ghosh under Section 153 AA (punishment for knowingly carrying arms in any procession or organising) of IPC and Arms Act,” said Y Raghuvanshi, the Kharagpur Additional SP.
Earlier in the day, Chatterjee was booked by the Birbhum police for carrying a ‘trishul’ during a Ram Navami procession in the district on Sunday. She was booked under sections 144 (unlawful assembly with deadly weapon), 153A (attempts to promote disharmony or feelings of enmity between different religion), 186-188 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public functions), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the IPC and the Arms Act.
“Except one person, no one was carrying arms in the rally. Local residents had obeyed the order except one from outside… She didn’t abide by the order. There was a clear order from the district magistrate that armed processions were not allowed. It was done intentionally and wilfully in contradiction to the order,” Birbhum SP N Sudheer Kumar said.
While Chatterjee maintained that she doesn’t consider ‘trishul’ to be a weapon, the SP said: “Action has been taken on the basis of the definition of arms under CrPC.”
Hours after Chatterjee was booked, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asserted that hooliganism in the name of Ram Navami celebrations is not the culture of West Bengal. While directing the police to not spare anyone who carried arms during Sunday’s processions, Mamata said action would also be taken against policemen who would go soft on such armed processions.
“Did Lord Ram ask anybody to take out rallies carrying pistols or swords? We have read that he had fought against Ravan with bows and arrows. Some hooligans are defaming Lord Ram. Can we leave the state’s administration and law and order in the hands of such hooligans? It is not Bengal’s culture to take out rallies carrying arms. Our culture is different, where a person belonging to one religion can take part in festivals of other religions,” Mamata said while addressing an administrative meeting at Pailan in South 24 Parganas.
“No one was allowed to organise such rallies in the name of Ram… organise processions in the area of another community and murder a person. I will ask the police administration to strongly deal with this. Whoever it may be… it can be either me or you… action should be taken against such people under Arms Act. You have to take action against everyone from A to Z,” she added.
One person was killed and five police personnel injured on Sunday in clashes between two groups during a Ram Navami procession in Purulia as sword-wielding BJP supporters defied a government ban on armed rallies in several places. “I am directing the director general of police and all SPs to take strong action. No one should be spared and law will take its own course. I will take action against those policemen who will not take action because of an understanding… People were scared when they saw some rallies yesterday. This is not the culture of Bengal. I will not tolerate this,” Mamata said.
She pointed out that the administration had given some organisations, which have been celebrating Ram Navami for more than a decade, permission to take out armed processions. “I had allowed peaceful rallies… Not every organisation was granted permission to take out armed rallies,” Mamata said.
When contacted, Dilip Ghosh claimed that Trinamool Congress was scared to the see the “mass awakening” in Bengal. “Instead of lecturing us about Bengal’s culture, they must first learn about it. Action as per law should be taken against anyone who disrupted such rallies. Why didn’t the police take preventive action against such rallies? Now, the government is taking action against us after cleverly embroiling our names into violence organised by the ruling party. People are clever enough to understand such politics.”
Asked about the case lodged against him, he said: “We took out a rally… people across the state participated… Now, they (TMC) have to do something to console themselves. So, they have lodged a case. It doesn’t mean anything. It was a traditional rally and there was nothing illegal about it… I will see them in court.”
“When people saw the trishul in Locket’s hand, they got scared… they thought she is Maa Durga… Those who want to lodge cases, they will, those who want to hit the street, they will. By instigating clash and attacking people, who are peacefully participating in a procession, they want to malign our image,” he added.