Condemning the clashes that broke out in West Bengal’s Purulia district, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday directed the state administration to take stringent action against those who took out rallies with arms on occasion of Ram Navami, defying the state’s directive.
The incident, which left one person dead and five policemen injured, occurred as the BJP and Sangh Parivar outfits, in defiance of the state government’s ban, organised armed rallies across West Bengal on the occasion of Ram Navami on Sunday.
“Did Lord Ram ask anybody to rally with arms and swords? Can we leave the state’s administration and law and order in the hands of these hooligans, who are defaming Ram? I am instructing the DG (Director General of Police) and all the Police Superintendents to take strong action against such rallyists. No one should be spared,” the chief minister said during the district level administrative meet in South 24 Parganas.
“People got scared seeing some rallies yesterday (Sunday). This is not the culture of Bengal. I am giving out a clear message that this will not be tolerated. They are doing business in the name of religion and maligning the religion. This issue cannot be left out for future. It has to dealt with strongly,” she thundered.
The TMC supremo further said that the state administration permitted certain organisations that celebrate Ram Navami for more than a decade to conduct processions with traditional weapons but those who resorted to hooliganism in the name of religious rallies, will be prosecuted under the Arms Act. “I allowed the peaceful rallies. But one was given permission to rally with guns and swords in the name of Ram and enter the locality of other communities to harass or murder them,” she continued.
“Some thugs got out on the streets wearing headbands and carrying swords and guns to foment trouble. This cannot happen in Bengal. Bengal has a distinctly different culture. We celebrate all kinds of festivals and rituals starting from Durga Puja to Ramadan and Christmas but always maintain peace and harmony,” she claimed.
Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders also organised Ram Navami rallies across the state. According to police sources, at least two of these, in North 24 Parganas, were armed rallies.
Recalling the incident, Police said Sheikh Sahjahan (50) died after he found himself trapped in a clash between Bajrang Dal activists and police forces in Purulia district on Sunday afternoon. The incident occurred in Beldi village, under Arsha police station, a Muslim-dominated area.
“The clashes broke out when the police were trying to stop some people from taking part in an armed procession. Preliminary investigations revealed that Sahjahan suffered fatal injuries after he was trapped in the clashes. He was rushed to a district hospital where he was declared dead,” said Joy Biswas, SP, Purulia.
A total of 16 persons have been arrested in connection with the case, Biswas said, adding that additional police forces have been deployed in Beldi in view of prevailing tense situation.
Notably, CM Banerjee had last week announced that the government will not allow participants to carry arms in the Ram Navami rallies barring some organisations which have been conducting such rallies for a long time.
Announcing his party’s decision to defy the state government’s ban on armed processions, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh had yesterday said: “We will bring out processions with swords, tridents and maces throughout the state. If they try to stop us, there will be trouble. There is a tradition of carrying arms, and we will follow it. The Ram Mandir will soon come up.”
Carrying a sword, Ghosh later participated in a rally in Kharagpur, in West Midnapore district — his assembly constituency. Police sources said even schoolchildren were seen carrying knives, swords and tridents in some districts of the state, including at Chinsurah in Hooghly district, where the rally was led by senior BJP leader Rahul Sinha. Minor scuffles were reported from Chinsurah and Muslim-dominated Qazipara in Howrah district.