In a chilling rerun of the Kaliachak violence in Malda, one person was killed when a mob — enraged by an alleged inflammatory Facebook post against the Prophet by a college student — attacked a police station, damaged several vehicles and injured three more in the Illambazar area of Birbhum district in West Bengal last Tuesday.
Close on the heels of January's Kaliachak incident, when a violent mob had ransacked a police station, tension erupted in Birbhum when Sujan Mukherjee, a third-year student of computer technology at an engineering college and a resident of Illambazar, uploaded an allegedly derogatory post against the Prophet on Facebook in response to a similar inflammatory post on goddess Durga which was shared by local Muslim boys.
As Mukherjee's post, uploaded on Monday, got circulated in social media a mob attacked his house that night, beat him up and heckled his family members. Fearing for his life, Mukerhjee surrendered to the police. A court subsequently sent him to 14-day judicial custody.
The news of his arrest, however, saw a huge crowd armed with bricks and batons gherao the Illambazar police station. According to the police, the mob demanded that the accused be handed over to them.
Police’s attempts to reason with the crowd and let the law take its own course was met with refusal and the mob, growing in numbers, reportedly attacked the police station and damaged the vehicles forcing the cops to fire tear gas shells to disperse the protesters. The mob also put up a road blockade at NH-60 and damaged several public and private vehicles.
According to the police, shots were fired to disperse the unruly mob and one protester, who had been a part of the road blockade, was allegedly hit on the head and died on the spot.
The Illambazar incident is the latest among a growing trend in Bengal of police officers and police stations coming under attack.
In a throwback to the Illambazar and Kaliachak attacks, a rampaging mob on 15 January had ransacked the Mayureshwar police station after a youth named Seikh Sazu was run over by a mini truck allegedly belonging to the sand mafia.
Angry local residents had attacked and assaulted policemen and torched their vehicles. The mob then turned on the police station and set it on fire. The inspector-in-charge of the police station, Rakesh Sadhukhan, fled for his life while women constables had to save their lives and dignity by taking refuge in barracks.
Though Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has condemned the frequent attacks on lawkeepers, it would seem that her plea is not cutting much ice. What has encouraged the mob is the administration’s lack of intent to bring the perpetrators to book.
Had those responsible for the violence in Malda been promptly and firmly dealt with, the attacks may not have repeated with such alarming frequency.
The chief minister had famously commented that Malda violence was “a clash between BSF and the local people.”
If that is the case, is Bengal police is governed by her or by the BSF? If it was a clash between Central forces and the local public, why on earth would they attack the police station that is governed by the Bengal’s home minister?
Truth is, compulsions of vote bank politics prevent the administration from taking stern action against radical elements among the Muslims. The Kaliachak incident saw the police station get a fresh coat of paint after getting torched. It has emboldened a section of the goons who now have no fear of even the police.
In a bid to secure the Muslim votes that makes over 27 percent of state’s population, the chief minister has conveniently forgotten that the attacks on the police station not only demoralise her forces, but it also instills fear in the minds of general public.