Bengal BJP workers clash with police during 'march to Nabanna'; party condemns 'barbaric treatment' of cadre
Protesters stormed barricades, hurled stones and set tyres ablaze during the march called by the party's youth wing BYJM. Police claimed that it recovered a loaded pistol from one of the agitators.
Clashes erupted between BJP workers and police in Kolkata and adjoining Howrah on Thursday as the protesting workers stormed barricades, hurled stones, and blocked roads with burning tyres while marching towards the State Secretariat "Nabanna".
The march was called Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth wing of the BJP, in protest against a series of killings of saffron party workers and the “worsening" law and order situation in the state.
Several parts of the twin cities resembled a battle zone after police in riot gear burst teargas shells, beat up agitators and used water cannons to break up the protests which lasted for nearly three hours.
Several BJP activists, including some senior leaders, were injured while over 100 were detained for violating the National Disaster Management Act (NDMA) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cops claims BJP workers brought pistols, crude bombs, party denies
Thousands of slogan-shouting BJP workers from Kolkata and Howrah began marching towards Nabanna at around 12.30 pm.
Thick plumes of smoke from discarded tyres that the protesters set on fire to block traffic blackened the sky and streets were littered with stones. Shops and other business establishments hurriedly downed their shutters during the skirmishes.
Parts of Howrah district witnessed much of the violence where BJYM national president and Bengaluru South MP Tejaswi Surya along with state president Soumitra Khan led a march from Howrah Maidan.
They were stopped at Mallick Gate, prompting angry BJP supporters to attack police with stones. When the protesters tried to pull down the barricades, police burst teargas shells.
Failing to quell the rampaging crowds of BJP workers, personnel of Rapid Action Force (RAF) baton-charged them, resulting in injuries to some of the protesters.
Police claimed they recovered a loaded pistol from one of the protesters. The BJP claimed he was the personal security officer of a party
leader and was carrying a licensed handgun. Police also alleged BJP workers lobbed crude bombs at police, an accusation the saffron party rejected.
Police used teargas, water cannons and batons to break up the protest at Santragachi which was led by the party's state secretary Sayantan Basu. The anti-riot police allegedly used chemical-laced water cannons to disperse the violent protesters, a charge denied by the state government.
During the clashes, Raju Banerjee and MP Jyotirmoy Singh Mahato were injured. Banerjee was shifted to a hospital.
Similar scenes were witnessed at the third protest march led by BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and national vice-president Mukul Roy at Hastings-Khidderpore crossing in Kolkata.
After BJP workers fought pitched battles with police, Vijayvargiya and Roy began a sit-in at the Hastings crossing.
"We were holding a peaceful march but police action turned it into a violent agitation. The police and TMC goons attacked us. It's all happening because of the dictatorial attitude of Mamata Banerjee," Vijayvargiya told reporters.
Similar chaotic scenes unfolded at the bustling Burrabazar in Kolkata where BJP state president Dilip Ghosh was leading the march. BJP national secretary Arvind Menon was injured during the scuffle.
No democracy left in Bengal: BJP
BJP led a sharp attack against the ruling TMC and it's chief Mamata after the incident stating that the people have lost confidence in the chief minister.
BJP president JP Nadda in a tweet said the party's struggle to save the rich glory of Bengal will continue.
BJP’s struggle to save the rich glory of Bengal will continue. We stand with the people of Bengal despite the brazen misuse of state power by Mamata didi. Our brave @BJYM karyakartas compelled her to close the Secretariat. This is an admission that she has lost public confidence. pic.twitter.com/oFQ1fEXNVZ
— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) October 8, 2020
There is no democracy in West Bengal, those who protest against the government are implicated in cases or harassed by police or murdered, senior BJP leader and Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters at the party's headquarters.
He condemned the "barbaric treatment" of his party workers by the state police.
"I would like to say to Mamata Banerjee and her party that if they think they can stop BJP's progress in West Bengal by lathi-charges and atrocities by the police, I assure them, they would fail in their attempts," Prasad said.
He asserted that Banerjee and her party are resorting to violence as they are losing political ground and said there is feedback from the ground that the BJP will form the next government in West Bengal.
"Is protest allowed in Mamata Banerjee's reign? People who raise their voice against her party are killed. The only reason behind this is TMC losing their political ground in the state," Prasad said. He claimed that so far 115 BJP workers have been killed in the state.
"Today was a black day," lamented Surya, as he alleged the state government "murdered the rule of law". He also demanded an inquiry by the Union Home Ministry into the alleged use of chemical-laced water on protesters, calling it a "gross violation of human rights".
State BJP leader Dilip Ghosh alleged that "TMC goons" masquerading as police hurled bombs at BJP workers. "The Pandemic Act comes into force only when BJP plans to conduct any rally or programme. When TMC conducts rallies and meetings, no rules are applicable," he said.
'Rally against permissible parameters of Pandemic Act'
The West Bengal government, meanwhile, asserted that the BJP's march to the state Secretariat Nabanna was carried out without permission and it was held against permissible parameters of the Pandemic Act.
Chief Secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay praised the police for controlling the situation patiently despite instigations. Asked about the blue coloured water sprayed on BJP workers from water cannons during the march, Bandopadhyay said it is the same colour that is used during the Holi festival.
"It is an international practice. Coloured water is used during such agitations so that people can be identified after dispersal," he said.
More than 89 people were detained in Kolkata and 24 in Howrah in connection with the agitation, the chief secretary said.
The TMC leadership also accused the BJP of trying to instigate communal riots and unleash anarchy. "The BJP proved yet again it is an unruly party. Can you tell me where in a political rally, activists are found carrying guns? They want to fuel communal riots in the state," state minister Firhad Hakim said.
West Bengal has seen a string of political killings in the last few months, including those of BJP workers. The killing of local BJP Manish Shukla, who was considered close to BJP strongman and Barrackpore MP Arjun Singh, in Titagarh a few days ago, was seen as the immediate trigger for Thursday's protest.
The march was also a part of the BJYM's seven-point charter of demands ranging from alleged corruption to unemployment and law and order, BJP sources told PTI.
The TMC government had on Wednesday declined permission for the protest march citing the Pandemic Act. It had also declared the state secretariat closed for two days from 8 October for "sanitisation".
With inputs from PTI
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