West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday alleged that the BJP brought in hoodlums armed with bombs in trains from outside the state to foment trouble during its march to the state secretariat Nabanna.
Banerjee, also the Trinamool Congress supremo, said the police could have opened fire on “violent” BJP protesters during the protest march on Tuesday, but the government exercised “maximum” restraint.
"Many police personnel were brutally attacked by the participants of that rally... Police could have opened fire, but our administration showed maximum restraint," she said during an administrative meeting at Nimtouri in Purba Medinipur district.
Given the same “violent” situation, at least 20 people would have been killed in firing had it been the Left Front regime, during which the police were “trigger-happy”, TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, considered the number two in the party, claimed in Kolkata.
During the rally, BJP supporters fought pitched battles with the police, threw stones at them, torched a vehicle and damaged a kiosk while the cops used batons and water cannons to disperse the protesters. Several persons from both sides were injured in the melee.
The CM said the protest march inconvenienced commuters and traders, as it was held barely a few weeks ahead of Durga Puja, the state’s biggest festival.
"We have nothing against democratic and peaceful protests. But the BJP and its supporters resorted to violence, vandalism and arson. They torched properties and instilled fear among people. We won't allow this. Arrests are being made, and law will take its own course," she said.
Banerjee, also the CM’s nephew, said democratic protesters would not torch a police vehicle or assault a cop who had only a walkie-talkie in his hand.
He was talking to reporters after visiting Assistant Commissioner of Police Debjit Chatterjee, who was injured during the rally, at SSKM Hospital.
“Had I been present at the spot where the vandals poured petrol in a police vehicle and set it ablaze, I would have fired at the head of the attackers…. I am speaking only as an ordinary man angry with such rowdyism, not as a member of a force under TMC rule which is sensible, restrained and humane," Abhishek Banerjee said.
He requested “a section of the judiciary” to look at the protesters who took the law into their hands and did mayhem.
In the TMC rule, the police do not open fire indiscriminately as was the norm in the Left Front regime, he claimed.
He sought to remind the people that police firing had left 13 people dead during the TMC’s march to Writers Buildings, the then state secretariat, on July 21, 1993, when the CPI(M)-led Left Front was in power in the state.
“I salute all our police personnel for their tireless efforts in maintaining law & order in our state; Kolkata is the safest city owing to you,” the TMC MP said in a Facebook post later.
Abhishek Banerjee also took a dig at the Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari for telling a policewoman not to touch her when “she asked him to accompany her to a police vehicle”.
BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar described the TMC leader’s comment about firing at protesters as “alarming”.
“His words will only embolden the police and cadre giving rise to shootings in the future," he said.
Majumdar claimed the vandalism during Tuesday's protest march was instigated by TMC men who were among BJP activists to malign the saffron party.
He said BJP will launch an intense movement after Kali Puja across West Bengal against the “misrule” of the TMC.
(Inputs from PTI)