Parts of Kolkata and Howrah district turned into a battlefield on Tuesday as BJP supporters clashed with the police while trying to get past barricades erected to prevent them from marching towards the West Bengal secretariat ‘Nabanna’.
Visuals from Kolkata streets showed violent mobs pelting the police with stones and bricks as well as attacking them with lathis and setting fire to the Kolkata Police’s cars. They also showed injured BJP leaders.
Several police officers and saffron camp members, including leaders Mina Devi Purohit and Swapan Dasgupta, were reportedly injured during the rally.
A Kolkata Police officer said, “There was no report of any serious injury to any protestor though several police personnel have suffered injuries”.
While the BJP alleged that the Mamata Banerjee government does not want to give space to opposition parties, the TMC described the saffron camp workers as ‘hooligans’.
Sharing a video of people carrying BJP flags setting ablaze a police vehicle, TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee tweeted, “Today, not just Bengal but the nation saw a glimpse of what @BJP4Bengal hooligans are capable of doing to our City of Joy.” The saffron party’s IT in-charge Amit Malviya shared another video of the same incident on his Twitter handle. He said, “Mamata Banerjee sent TMC cadres to pelt stones at the police so that later BJP could be blamed for it…” The police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the agitators, who tried to go past the barricades that were put in place at several points in Kolkata and its adjoining areas.
Today, not just Bengal but the nation saw a glimpse of what @BJP4Bengal hooligans are capable of doing to our City of Joy.— Abhishek Banerjee (@abhishekaitc) September 13, 2022
We shudder to imagine what they would’ve done had they come to power.
WB, thank you for rejecting them!
Now, it’s TIME FOR INDIA TO REJECT THEM! pic.twitter.com/zH7IZnEoK1
Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly Suvendu Adhikari and party MP Locket Chatterjee were detained by the police even before the start of the rally.
“Everyone got to see how the partisan police tried scuttling a leader of the opposition’s democratic right to protest outside Nabanna. I was manhandled by a woman constable, people saw that too,” Adhikari told reporters before being whisked away in a prison van.
In Santragachhi in Howrah district, the police were pelted with stones as they chased away the protesters. A police kiosk was damaged as the demonstrators were stopped from moving forward.
The pitched battle continued for several hours at Santragachhi as BJP activists went on throwing stones at the cops standing outside the station and police reinforcements were sent to quell the situation.
Similar scenes were witnessed in Howrah town, Kolkata’s Lalbazar and MG Road areas where protesters engaged in a scuffle with the police.
Police used water cannons near Howrah bridge, Howrah Maidan area and Santragachhi.
Normal life was disrupted in Kolkata due to the protests, with common people facing huge inconveniences on the thoroughfares, many of which had plunged into chaos.
BJP leaders attacked the administration for the police action during its protest rally.
The party’s state president Sukanta Majumdar staged a sit-in in Howrah after being stopped from taking forward the rally.
“This autocratic Mamata Banerjee government does not believe in giving space to opposition parties,” he said.
The BJP state chief and senior leader Agnimitra Paul were later detained from a protest site at Howrah Maidan.
In a Twitter post, Malviya alleged that male police constables of Kolkata Police assaulted women protestors under the instructions of Mamata Banerjee.
Vowing to move court against the police action on BJP rallyists, Adhikari claimed, “This government will not last beyond January 2023.” BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh, who led the protesters near Howrah bridge, left the site in the midst of a lathi-charge on his party’s supporters.
“Only 15 per cent of the BJP workers could attend today’s march to Nabanna as the rest were prevented from coming to the city and Howrah. And yet see the impact. Eighty per cent of state police had to be deployed with water cannons, batons, tear gas shells to tackle these 15 per cent party workers and supporters,” BJP state spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya told PTI.
The state’s ruling party shared videos showing alleged BJP workers attacking a policeman with wooden rods and a police vehicle.
Abhishek Banerjee tweeted: “We shudder to imagine what they would’ve done had they come to power. WB, thank you for rejecting them! Now, it’s time for India to reject them!” “Destroying and damaging government property, attacking police personnel, causing chaos and disrupting peace across the state — today’s activities of BJP that brought shame upon the entire nation. We strongly condemn such outrageous behaviour,” the TMC said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, the Calcutta High Court sought a report from the West Bengal Home Secretary over the allegation that BJP supporters were forcibly prevented from attending its ‘march to Nabanna’ programme.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice R Bharadwaj also directed the state government to ensure protection of the BJP state headquarters in Kolkata.
(with PTI inputs)