BJP’s youth wing had called the protest march to highlight ‘deteriorating law and order situation in the State’
Violence erupted on Thursday in Kolkata and parts of Howrah during a BJP march to the State Secretariat (Nabanna).
At many places, police used force by resorting to baton charge and tear gas shelling and using water cannons to disperse the protesters. The area around the Howrah Maidan, Howrah Bridge, and Santragchi in Howrah district, as well as Burrabazar and Hastings in Kolkata area looked like a war zone with intermittent clashes between BJP supporters and police. Traffic in large parts of the central area of the city came to a halt from noon to 2 p.m.
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Protesters hurled stones at the police and tried to breach barricades. Several BJP supporters were injured in the violence. BJP national secretary Arvind Menon and State BJP vice president Raju Banerjee were among those hospitalised.
The party’s youth wing had called the protest march to highlight “deteriorating law and order situation in the State” among other issues.
Thousands of BJP supporters from different parts of the State had assembled in the city to participate in the march. Tents were put up in front of the party’s State headquarters in central Kolkata to accommodate people. Along with youth wing president Soumitra Khan, national president of the BJP Yuva Morcha Tejasvi Surrya was present in the Howrah protest march.
“The police had made unprecedented arrangements. Senior party leaders have sustained injuries. I also fell down. The attempt to suppress a peaceful movement will have more ramifications,” Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said. A number of BJP MPs and party’s national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya participated in the protest march.
‘Crude bombs hurled’
Thousands of police personnel were deployed at the key intersections leading to the Secretariat. “The assembly has been declared illegal. We are urging you to disperse,” police personnel trying to disperse the crowd announced over microphones as protesters engaged in pitched fight with the police. There were reports of crude bombs being hurdled in the Howrah Maidan. The police seized a firearm from a person during mob dispersal.
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The government on Wednesday announced that the Secretariat would be closed for sanitisation on Thursday and Friday.
‘Blue liquid came from water cannon’
Speaking to journalists later in the evening, Mr. Tejasvi Surya said that about 1,000 party supporters were injured and about 500 taken in custody. He asked why the police mixed some dark blue chemical in the water used in water cannons. “We demand an inquiry into the use of this dark blue chemical, which is not used anywhere. This is gross abuse of human rights,”he said, adding it was a “black day in democracy” of the State.
State’s Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay said a letter was sent by a political organisation on the evening of October 7 seeking permission for the rally to which the Home department has replied. “The applicant last evening had mentioned several rallies and said each of the rallies will have 25,000 youths. If several rallies, each having 25,000 youths, had to be sanctioned, that would have been a travesty as per the NDMA Act and lockdown norms,” he added.
The blue liquid used in the water cannon was nothing but a colour, which was a practice followed globally to identify people after dispersal if required for necessary legal action,he noted. According to him, 123 people have been detained by the Kolkata and Howrah police in the rally.
The Trinamool Congress leadership accused the BJP of trying to incite violence through the protest rally. “Rallies of political parties are not held with firearms and crude bombs. This an attempt by the BJP to frighten people by using force,” its leader and Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said.
Later in the day, the women’s wing of the Trinamool Congress, led by MP Mala Roy, hit the streets in south Kolkata in protest against the Hathras incident.