Police officer injured as WB sees fresh violence over Ram Navami rallies

A view of a street after incidents of clashes and arson over Ram Navami procession at Raniganj in Burdwan district on Monday | Photo: PTI

Trouble over Ram Navami processions continued in West Bengal for the second day on Monday as members of saffron outfits clashed with the police in Murshidabad and Bardhaman West districts, resulting in a senior police officer losing his hand when a bomb was hurled at him.

One person was killed and five police personnel were injured yesterday in a clash between two groups in Purulia as sword-wielding BJP supporters defied the state government's ban on armed rallies on Ram Navami.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee directed the director general of police (DGP) to instruct all the superintendents of police (SPs) to take strong action against those who carried arms in the rallies.

"The law will take its own course. I will not tolerate this," she said at a meeting at Pailan, near here, adding that action would be taken against the police if they failed to take measures in this regard.

In the Kandi area of Murshidabad district, clashes broke out when the participants in a Ram Navami rally, allegedly armed with swords and tridents, tried to enter a police station, the police said.

At least 10 persons were injured when the members of the Ram Navami Utsav Committee came to blows with the police personnel during a procession in the area, a senior police officer said.

The committee, also comprising BJP and VHP activists, had organised the rally from the Kandi bus stand to the Radhaballav temple around 11.30 am, Additional SP (Sadar) Anish Sarkar said.

"A clash ensued between the two sides as a few participants of the rally hurled stones at the police station and the vehicles parked outside. The police had to baton-charge the agitators," he said, adding that no one was arrested in connection with the incident so far.

BJP leader Subhash Mondal, however, blamed the local members of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) for the ruckus.

"Unidentified miscreants of the TMC joined the rally to create a ruckus. It was an attempt to spoil our image before the people here," he alleged.

Refuting Mondal's allegations, TMC MLA Apurbo Sarkar accused the BJP and the VHP of trying to disturb peace in the area and claimed that the ruling party had nothing to do with the incident.

In the Raniganj area of Bardhaman West district, two police officers were seriously injured when two groups attacked each other during a rally.

One of the Ram Navami processions allegedly tried to enter a area, where members of the minority community lived in large numbers, a senior police officer said on the condition of anonymity.

The members of the two communities got into a fight even as the police tried to intervene, he said, adding that a temple in the vicinity was also attacked during the clashes.

"Asansol-Durgapur Deputy Commissioner of Police Arindam Dutta Chowdhury was injured in the incident. He lost a hand when the agitators hurled a bomb at him. He has been admitted to a private hospital," the officer said.

Officer in-charge (OC) Pramit Ganguly also received head injuries in the violence, he added.

Union minister and Asansol MP (BJP) Babul Supriyo, who was supposed to participate in one the rallies in Raniganj but backed out at the last moment, alleged that it was a "premeditated attack, meant to hurt me".

Asansol Mayor Jitendra Tiwari urged the people to maintain peace in the area.

The TMC and the BJP had organised several processions to celebrate Ram Navami in the state, with the saffron party dubbing the rallies as a first step towards "uniting the Hindus" of Bengal.

State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said it was an age-old Hindu tradition to conduct "astra puja" (worship of weapons) on the day of Ram Navami and that he was not aware of any ban on armed rallies.

"Where is the government order banning arms in Ram Navami processions? Where is the circular?" he asked.

A case was also registered against BJP West Bengal Mahila Morcha president Locket Chatterjee today for allegedly participating in an armed Ram Navami procession in Birbhum district yesterday, Superintendent of Police (SP) N Sudheer Kumar said.

Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Anuj Sharma said the police had not given permission to take out armed rallies.

The police would take legal action against those who defied the rules, he added.