West Bengal Police Arrests 60 After Violence Over Comments On Prophet Muhammad Continues For 2nd Day In Howrah

Stone-pelting and arson have been going on in violent protests over Nupur Sharma's comments on Prophet Muhammad in Howrah for two days.

A BJP office that was attacked in Howrah in violence over Nupur Sharma's comment on Prophet Muhammad

After two days of stone-pelting and arson in West Bengal's Howrah district, the police said 60 people have been arrested and booked under IPC sections dealing with rioting, attempt to murder, and causing damage to public properties, among others, a senior police officer said.

Protests that broke out in Howrah on Friday over former Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) former spokesperson Nupur Sharma comments on Prophet Muhammad turned violent as hundreds of protesters blocked roads in different parts of Howrah and clashed with police personnel when they tried to lift the blockade on National Highway-6, a police officer said. 

The officer added that the police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd at Dhulagarh and Panchla areas in Howrah where people pelted stones, damaging nearby cars.

The protesters also blocked railway tracks between Fuleswar and Chengail stations in the Howrah-Kharagpur section from 1.22 pm, a South Eastern Railway official said.

Following this, the internet was suspended in Howrah prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC were imposed in certain areas.

On Saturday, violence erupted again in Howrah despite restrictions protesters clashed with the police and set several buildings, including BJP offices and and several houses on fire. Stone-pelting also caused injuries to some police personnel.

BJP National Executive Member Swapan Dasgupta said multiple party offices in Howrah have been burnt.

Several fire tenders were pressed into service as police lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the protesters, a senior officer said, adding the situation was "under control" at the moment.

He said, "The agitators have been dispersed. Some policemen have been injured in the stone-pelting. We are conducting a route march in the area. The situation is under control."

Following the violence, the state government replaced the Superintendent of Police of Rural Howrah, and the Commissioner of Police of Howrah City.

Praveen Tripathi, Additional CP of Kolkata Police, was made the new Commissioner of Police of Howrah City. Swathi Bhangalia, DCP (South West) of Kolkata Police, was made the new SP of Rural Howrah.

In addition to the police action, a cleric was served notice by the the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR) on Saturday for using children in violent demonstrations.

The WBCPCR on Saturday sent a show-cause notice Md Sanaullah Siddiqui, the Pirzada of Furfura Sharif, as it took suo motu cognisance of the videos on Facebook showing children participating in protests at Domjur in Howrah district where agitators pelted stones, set police vehicles on fire, damaged public property and clashed with police on Friday. He is a cleric with political ambitions, as per PTI.

In its notice, the WBCPCR expressed concern over the issue and condemned placing children at risk and directed the superintendents of police of Howrah rural and Barasat police districts, Howrah police commissioner and district magistrates of Howrah and North 24 Parganas to enquire and take appropriate action against those involved in using children for demonstrations.

(With PTI inputs)