West Bengal turns back federal minister following clashes

Kolkata: Amid prevailing tensions over parts of Raniganj and adjoining areas in West Bengal’s Paschim Burdwan district following clashes over Ram Navami rallies, federal minister Babul Supriyo was on Thursday prevented from entering the area.

Citing security reasons, police stopped the car of the federal minister of state for heavy industries and public enterprises as he tried to enter the Railpar area in the district.


“As a public representative, it is my duty to be with the people when they are in trouble and I have every right to visit my constituency. Police was saying that I would not be allowed to go as Section 144 [prohibitory orders] is imposed in the area. Being a minister, I cannot violate rules,” said Supriyo who also engaged in a verbal exchange with police personnel who surrounded his car.

A group of people raised slogans against the minister, demanding that he leave the area.

“People of #Ranigunj are attacked, police force is outnumbered and severely injured. And Mamata Government could only muster cutting off internet connectivity for 2 days? Because goons on the streets have been downloading weapons and bombs off the internet, is it now,” Supriyo, who is also the Asansol MP, said in a tweet later.

Several shops and houses were vandalised and set ablaze over the Ram Navami related clashes in parts of the district and police have arrested 19 people for fomenting trouble.

The violence which rocked Raniganj on Monday fanned out to Asansol since Tuesday night, prompting police to declare a curfew in Asansol sub-division and suspending Internet services till Friday midnight. From late Tuesday night, armed men took to sthe treets vandalising around 20 shops, even setting some of them ablaze. RAF and combat forces descended on the now-deserted streets even as police alerted people to ignore rumours and lies.

The West Bengal government on Wednesday advised governor K.N. Tripathi not to visit injured the deputy commissioner of police, who was injured in a bomb attack after violence broke out during a Ram Navami procession in Raniganj.

A statement from the governor’s office, Raj Bhawan, said the state government expressed its inability to arrange for adequate security for Tripathi.

The Governor wanted to see for himself the condition of Asansol-Durgapur Deputy Commissioner of Police Arindam Dutta Chowdhury, said the statement issued by the Governor’s press secretary.

The police officer lost a hand in the bomb attack.

“The state government informed that in view of deployment of police in the area, it will be difficult to provide adequate security to the Governor during the visit,” said the statement.

The government said the situation was tense in the violence-hit region, including the nearby areas of Raniganj and Asansol and it was not “advisable for the Governor to visit Durgapur”.

A clash broke out between two groups centreing a Ram Navami procession in Raniganj on Monday. A person was allegedly hacked to death while Chowdhury is still critical at the hospital.

Tension prevailed over parts of Raniganj and adjoining areas in West Bengal’s Paschim Burdwan district on Wednesday following clashes over Ram Navami rallies, even as the state government rushed a crack police team including senior officiers to prevent any breach of peace, sources said.

“We are maintaining a tight vigil. So far things are normal. We expect everybody to maintain peace”, said a senior police officer posted at one of the troubled locations.

A clash broke out between two groups centering a Ram Navami procession in Raniganj on Monday. A person was allegedly hacked to death while a Deputy Commissioner of Police lost a hand after getting hit by a bomb.

The Union Home Ministry has sought a report from the state government on incidents of arson and violence during the processions.

However, the Trinamool Congress government denied knowledge of any such directive from the federal government, and blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party for the unrest.

“Those who will break the law will have to pay for it. At this moment, the disturbed areas of Raniganj or Asansol should be brought under control. Those miscreants with BJP flags have tried to scupper peace and harmony of these places,” said state education and parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee.

“This is a deliberate attempt by the BJP to create disorder in the state,” he alleged.

Chatterjee said he had no information about governor Keshari Nath Tripathi planning to visit the affected area to see the condition of the injured senior police officer, but maintained that peace should be restored before any such trip.

“I do not have that information. But before going there, peace shou ld be restored in the area.”

He also denied any knowledge of whether the governor has been stopped from visiting the area.

“I don’t know about any such development. But what I feel is peace and harmony should be restored in Raniganj and Asansol before he goes there. There is ample time for his visit.”

Chatterjee also turned down the Central government’s offer of assistance of paramilitary forces.

“We are capable enough to handle present situation. We have handle d more difficult situations before,” he said.

Meanwhile, there was intense patrolling by police and Rapid action Force personnel in north Asansol, especially in the Dhadka area, where a police vehicle was vandalised and two Trinamool offices torched over fresh violence over a Ram Navami procession on Tuesday.

Sources said a special team from Kolkata police led by additional police commissioner Vineet Goel was being dispatched to Raniganj to prevent any more untoward situations.

Two other senior IPS officers, Siddh Nath Gupta and Jawed Shamim were also being sent to the troubled spot.

The BJP on its part alleged that the administration was trying to forcibly stop Ram Navami processions and lodging cases against its leaders.

“The administration is trying to forcibly stop this [processions]. Cases are being slapped against BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists. This is only escalating the violence. If the administration wants peace, they should stop acting out of vengeance. Police should be restrained,” said state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh.

Another BJP leader Mukul Roy lambasted chief minister Mamata Banerjee for “whiling her time” in Delhi to try and cobble together a ‘Third Front’ while police personnel were getting injured in the state.

He also alleged that “state-sponsored terrorism” had been unleashed in West Bengal.

Several shops and houses were vandalised and set ablaze over clashes related to Ram Navami rituals in parts of Paschim Bardhaman district. Police have arrested 19 people so far for fomenting trouble.

On Sunday, five police personnel were injured as clashes broke out over a Ram Navami rally in an area under Arsha police station in Purulia district.

The BJP, which is trying to pitchfork itself as the main challenger to the Trinamool in the state, has been using the Ram Navami celebrations since last year to appeal to the sentiments of the majority Hindu population.

The Trinamool has sought to counter the BJP’s campaign by organising massive celebrations of its own this year.

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