A goods carrier damaged in the violence at Telinipara, Bhadreswar, Hooghly district of West Bengal | Photo: ANI
A goods carrier damaged in the violence at Telinipara, Bhadreswar, Hooghly district of West Bengal | Photo: ANI
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Kolkata: The Covid-19 lockdown was not able to prevent instances of communal violence in West Bengal over the last two days in the suburban town of Bhadreswar in Hooghly district.

The clashes were triggered by heated altercations over the use of a public toilet in a slum by a group of outsiders, who had come from a containment zone, according to police.

Crude bombs were used, the police were pelted with stones and their vehicles torched, and houses were vandalised. Initially, the situation was brought under control Monday, but violence erupted again Tuesday, when gas cylinders were used as improvised explosive devices and a dozen houses were set on fire, according to the police.

A senior police officer told ThePrint that while the Monday violence was “spontaneous”, there was instigation behind what unfolded Tuesday.

Two cases have been registered at the Chandannagar police commissionerate, and local political leaders have been slapped with charges including rioting, arson, attempt to murder, and under the Explosive Substances Act.

“The clash that took place Monday was spontaneous and turned communal due to demographic reasons. But there was instigation Tuesday. Political persons are involved. We are probing into this,” the officer added.

The Hooghly district administration Tuesday imposed Section 144 (unlawful assembly) in the area, and temporarily shut internet services in two sub-divisions of the district — Serampore and Chandannagar.


Also read: Why an angry Mamata Banerjee was forced to do a U-turn on Bengal’s Covid strategy


Malda violence 

Another incident of violence took place Monday at Harishchandrapur in Malda district when an altercation between a local “quack” and a group of youths later triggered tension between two communities. Local residents told ThePrint that some houses were ransacked, but the police immediately arrested a few men and registered a case.

A senior police officer in Malda said two more cases were registered by the communities against each other, but the situation is under control now.

“We have arrested some people and raids are still on. Cases were lodged. We are investigating,” said Malda SP Aloke Rajoria.

What led to Bhadreswar flare-up

The trouble began with a heated altercation at Bhadreswar’s Telinipara over a common toilet. A group of residents resisted when some outsiders, coming from a containment zone, tried to use the toilet. They started pelting each other with stones, ransacked houses and hurled bombs at each other, said a local councillor, who did not want to be identified.

The police rushed to the spot in huge numbers, but were beaten up and their vehicles torched, a local shop owner told ThePrint. The police resorted to baton charge and lobbing tear gas shells to bring the situation under control.

Following the incident, many BJP leaders including the party’s state president Dilip Ghosh posted about the incident on social media.

Locket Chatterjee, BJP MP for Hooghly, visited the affected area Tuesday to assess the situation.

According to eyewitnesses ThePrint spoke to, the situation went out of hand Tuesday afternoon, and the communities clashed again.

Around a dozen houses were gutted as around 10 cylinders were detonated there, a huge numbers of bombs was hurled, and 10 police personnel sustained splinter injuries, the first senior police officer quoted above told ThePrint.

Police force has been deployed in large numbers, and senior officers are camping in the area, to maintain law and order.


Also read: Mamata’s Covid politics is benefiting Modi and West Bengal’s election isn’t that far


Accumulation and use of explosives

The police seized at least 14 petrol bombs and a dozen socket bombs with around eight gas cylinders that were readied with detonators for being used as explosives Tuesday.

Chandannagar Police Commissioner Humayun Kabir said: “We had arrested 67 people yesterday, and 35 people were picked up today. We have also seized huge quantities of explosive substances. Our bomb squads are there. As of now, we have recovered petrol bombs and socket bombs. They have also used cylinders as explosives. Further investigation is on. Anybody who had incited violence will be booked.”

The fact that the entire country has been under a strict lockdown since 25 March has led to questions over how the explosives were accumulated and used in Bhadreswar.

This this is the third instance of explosives use in Bengal during the lockdown, after two factions of the ruling Trinamool Congress clashed at Garden Reach in Kolkata in late March, followed by a clash between police and inmates at Dum Dum correctional home.

In all three cases, police called the incidents “planned”, but there has been no explanation for how the alleged perpetrators managed to gather so many arms and explosives.

Disturbing videos

In both the Hooghly and Malda incidents, a number of disturbing videos and pictures have been shared on social media platforms, which according to another senior West Bengal Police officer, may “foment more trouble”.

“We have already issued 12 notices to people who have shared such video footage or pictures they may affect public tranquillity,” the officer told ThePrint.

Political blame game 

The incidents have led to a political blame game, with a group of BJP leaders and MPs led by Mukul Roy meeting state Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and submitting a petition seeking redressal.

Dhankhar has appealed for peace in Hooghly and Malda, and put out tweets asking the police and administration to take action.

Dhankhar also said: “Time for all to be in solidarity in Covid-19 combat. Community leaders should be involved in peace making/confidence building. Intelligence be toned up so that disruptive activities could be pre-empted. State cannot afford communal virus.”

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee echoed these thoughts Tuesday when she said: “I have asked the police to take stringent action. None will be spared. We are fighting the coronavirus and there is no time to fight the communal virus now.”

Meanwhile, Hooghly MP Locket Chatterjee and Barrackpore MP Arjun Singh tweeted that they had gone to meet the Hooghly DM, but were turned away, indirectly blaming the Mamata Banerjee administration for “politicising the bureaucracy”.

However, Trinamool Congress MP for neighbouring Serampore, Kalyan Banerjee, accused the BJP of instigating communal tension.

“The BJP MPs are instigating people and fuelling communal tension. Several areas of my constituency overlap with Hooghly, and internet services were snapped there too. My constituency is also suffering for them. Locket Chatterjee was not seen there for months and now she has gone there to reap political mileage,” he alleged.


Also read: Bengal BJP goes to town over Mamata ‘fudging Covid numbers, PDS scandal’, starts survey


 

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16 Comments Share Your Views

16 COMMENTS

  1. It is now election season in West Bengal. BJP has a strong leader in WB Governor, Dhankar and his statements, letters tweets are all meant to make BJP prospects of winning upcoming Assembly elections bright. These Journalists will always be on the safer side not coming out with proper verified facts. Mamata is being branded as Didi for Muslims and it is only BJP ie RSS that can make Hindus regain their status of being a Bengali. It is a very different people here in WB who have lived with Musslims for centuries and it is not religion but the tradition of living together and allowing each other to pursue their religious activities with dignity. Politics has its role in letting Hindu Bengalis feel alienated and that is for the reasons that the RSS has been making it an issue for long now in WB . Looking at the All India Politics Modi has no one in states to challenge him except Mamata and it is their effort to see Mamata loses the leadership. CPM and Congress are simply playing into the hands of BJP and they will further lose in upcoming elections. It is also Mamata who has not cared to make a United front against BJP which is very essential and hope she sooner realizes this the possibility of BJP losing ground will be brighter.

  2. This is nothing new in WB. Has been happening for quite some time. Govt always suppress the news for vote bank. Horrific condition of WB due to vote bank politics.

  3. Hi Neil, you have identified the victims. Can you identify the culprits? The journalist has done a shoddy job – and you have criticized it. Why don’t you fill in the missing information?

  4. What a nice journalism for understanding why riot have happen we have to understand who is the leading party there and whose seat is there , there is the seat of BJP MP locket chatterjee and Arjun singh , in this coronavirus pandemic these BJP goons and stupid leader are spearding the communal virus and killing innocent muslims they have burnt the houses of muslims over there using Cylinders and desi bombs , only the educated person can understand what had actually happened , these leaders should be fucked up harder than they ever thought Mamta banerjee should take strict action against locket chatterjee and arjun singh

    • It was not BJp who spread the communal violence asshole it was those peace loving muslim communities in that area who spread the communal vilence asshole. People shouted naraye taqbeer and attacked hindus house, shops hurled bombs fired bullets. Keep your butt hurt mouth. Have the guts to criticize your community. Do not talk blatant lies. police 9s under the control of mamata Bannerjee not in the hand of BJP MP’s. Even the BJP Mp,’s were not allowed to enter that place so how could they spread the violance. Listen I am a bengali hindu from West Bengal so we know very well whats the situation. Only educated and fearless person would admit that it was created by the pace loving muslim community. BJPis not there in Bangladesh or Pakistan then why hindus and sikhs are being attacked?

    • you people are so scoundrels, shameless, liars, jihadis that you cannot see anything beyond your community. For the two days hindus houses were torched their properties were destroyed and you cannot even accept this reality!!

  5. If the attackers were Hindus you would have clearly mentioned that Hindus attacked the endangered Muslims. Since the attackers are Muslims you won’t mention the religion.

  6. Can The Print explain the sentence “The clash that took place Monday was spontaneous and turned communal due to demographic reasons”? Isn’t it evident that the demography is rapidly changing there??

  7. What an excellent piece of journalism not naming community.

    Just by looking at the cover photo I can say real victims are Hindus in all the three places mentioned in this article.

    Containment zone people, Stone thrower, IED expert are the piece loving community who pieces the other community.

    Police admin is a hangover of Direct Action era. Instead of shorab vardi as CM we have Didi now. And this author along with politically correct journalism will let you believe that this faultlines are new but don’t be fooled.

    • Yes, the journalism is shoddy. But why don’t you fill in the missing information pieces? You have identified the victims as Hindus. So please identify the culprits also.

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