A day after violence in the Basirhat subdivision of North 24 Parganas claimed the lives of two workers of the BJP and one of the Trinamool Congress, the West Bengal government and the Centre were on a collision course with the Union Home Ministry describing the situation on the ground as “a failure of the law enforcement machinery”, and the Trinamool Congress saying it “will respond appropriately” to this “political conspiracy”.
In an advisory to the West Bengal government, the Ministry of Home Affairs, while expressing “deep concern”, said: “The unabated violence over the past weeks appear to be a failure on the part of the law enforcement machinery of the state to maintain the rule of law and inspire confidence among people.”
It asked the state government to not only ensure maintenance of law and order but to also identify and punish “delinquent” officers. “It is strongly advised to ensure that all necessary measures are taken to maintain law and order, peace and public tranquility. It is also requested to take strict action against officials found delinquent in discharge of their duty,” the MHA advisory said.
Rejecting the charge of the failure of the state law and order machinery, the Mamata Banerjee government maintained that the situation in the state was “under control”.
In a letter to the Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, West Bengal Chief Secretary Malay Kumar De said “firm and appropriate actions” were initiated in all cases of violence without delay.
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“… while there have been a few stray post-poll clashes in the state perpetrated by some anti-social elements, the law enforcement authorities have been taking firm and appropriate actions in all such cases without any delay,” De wrote to the MHA.
“The situation is under control and it may not be construed under any circumstance to be a failure on the part of the law enforcement machinery of the State to maintain the rule of law and impute confidence among the people,” he said.
In a statement, the Trinamool Congress said: “The so-called advisory from MHA to the West Bengal government on the law enforcement machinery in the State is nothing but a political conspiracy. We will respond appropriately.”
Internet and cable services have been suspended in Basirhat and surrounding areas as authorities moved to deal with the situation.
Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi left Kolkata for New Delhi where he is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday. Sources claimed that the law and order situation and “internal issues” of the state may be on the table.
On Saturday evening, Mukul Roy, member of the BJP national executive committee, spoke to Union Home Minister Amit Shah and gave details of the violence.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said, “Law and order in the state has completely broken down. It is the Centre’s duty to ask the state for a report. Trinamool Congress is spreading terror since it knows the days of its government is numbered.”
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee offered no immediate comment but Trinamool Congress leaders and ministers bristled over the Centre’s advisory.
Partha Chatterjee, Trinamool Congress secretary general and state education minister, said, “It seems that BJP has become desperate in the state and is resorting to violence. They may have got some seats through the help of the Left, but people of Bengal are still with us.”
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Jyotipriyo Mullick, state food minister and party president for North 24 Parganas district, said, “This is interference by the Centre in matters of the state. Law and order is a state subject. This is direct interference.”
Both Trinamool Congress and BJP sent delegations to visit the injured in the hospital and the families of party workers who died.
Police have suspended Internet and cable connections in Basirhat area, fearing further clashes. Basirhat and Baduria saw communal clashes in July 2017 where central forces had to be called to control the situation.
“An investigation is on. We have suspended cable and internet services in Basirhat and surrounding areas to prevent rumour mongering and further escalation of violence. Heavy deployment of police force is maintained in Basirhat and surrounding areas,” a senior police officer said.
On Sunday, BJP workers and leaders took out protest rallies and blocked roads in various parts of Bengal, following which several were arrested including in Kolkata.