Kolkata: Tinku Prasad assembled a broken frame of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, at his vandalised pan shop. His brother Amarnath, sitting on the road, says they have lost their livelihood. “This shop was started by our father 40 years ago, now nothing remains, how will we eat? We have suffered a loss of Rs 2.5 lakh,” said Amarnath.
Their shop isn’t the only one that faced the brunt of violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims Sunday night. The bylane on B.K. Road in suburban Kolkata’s Mominpur area is covered with shattered glass, brickbats and charred shops.
“We frantically dialed the police, even tried the police headquarters but the cops came after two hours forty minutes. The damage was done,” Munto Shaw rued, sitting on a bench outside his ransacked shop.
“We were at the milad when we heard screams. We began running for cover, we could hear glass breaking. We had children with us, we were so scared. Then suddenly, we saw flames from the lane and thick smoke. Police weren’t there; the councillor also was unavailable. The forces came from the local station much later and fired tear gas shells in front of our home,” Firoz told ThePrint.
Firoz was born and brought up in Ekbalpore. “I was 12 or 13 when violence had broken out here over a tazia procession [in 1996 in this area]. But what happened on Sunday was equally horrific,” he added.
Mohammed Islai, a resident of B.K. Road and an eyewitness, said clashes broke out in Ekbalpore’s Mayurbhanj and Mominpur localities around 7.30 pm. “Between 9 pm and midnight. there was violence. Bricks were pelted, shops torched and ransacked. We were helpless, the police came after everything was over. We don’t know what triggered the violence,” said Islai.
On Saturday night, a tiff broke out between Hindus and Muslims in Mominpur’s Dompatti when flags to mark Prophet Muhammad’s birthday Milad-un-Nabi were being installed, residents claimed.
“We heard, a flag on the junction was taken down and vandalised which led to clashes on Saturday night. The following night spread and houses in Dompatti were attacked but we don’t know who it was,” said another resident Aslam.
The lanes have been cleared out by Kolkata Police. Barricades were placed, and Rapid Action Force deployed across the locality, especially outside temples.
Manju, 50, claimed she had to throw chili powder at miscreants to save herself before running out of the house. “We stayed on the footpath outside fearing our lives. Unidentified men threw lit glass bottles [molotovs] inside our house after breaking the window,” said Manju pointing at the staircase. Behind her house lies an empty field where children usually play football. “Police came after four hours, I am scared to go back inside,” she said.
The bedroom of Surendra Malik and his wife Geeta was set ablaze, their cupboards ransacked. Surendra waded through knee-deep water in the room without electricity. “I cannot describe the fear we felt last night. I thought I would die. We ran outside only to come back to smoke and ashes. We have lost everything,” Geeta said in tears.
Ramesh Shaw, 40, who has been living at Dompatti since birth told ThePrint around 2,000 families live in the locality. “Both communities mind their own business, but last night they came charging at us. They threw crude bombs, glass bottles and electricity was also shut.”
Senior police officers including Deputy Commissioners of Police (DCPs), and those from Special Branch, Kolkata Police Special Task Force and Central Intelligence Branch now stand guard in the intersection where both Hindus and Muslims reside.
Kolkata Police Commissioner Vineet Goyal ordered the imposition of Section 144 of CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) till 12 October. “Any unlawful assembly of five or more persons carrying lathis, any lethal or other dangerous weapons or doing any act which is likely to cause breach of peace and disturbance is prohibited,” reads the order, accessed by ThePrint.
A senior Kolkata Police officer told ThePrint, four separate cases were filed and 40 people arrested so far for rioting, arson, use of bombs and causing injuries to police on duty. The officer confirmed, 15 police personnel had sustained injuries while trying to control the violence. DCP, South-West Division, Saumya Roy is undergoing treatment at a Kolkata hospital.
The BJP has written to the West Bengal Governor, the Union Home Minister and the Prime Minister seeking immediate intervention. While Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari has sought the deployment of central forces. Former Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta tweeted that he had written to the Prime Minister drawing his attention to “the panic of vulnerable Hindu communities in West Bengal to this ugly assertion of sectarian identity”.
Trinamool Congress MP Sougata Roy said the Kolkata Police has taken necessary steps to bring the situation under control. “Kolkata Police has arrested the miscreants and they will be punished as per the law of the land. The BJP needs to stop playing politics over every incident as they are only trying to vitiate the atmosphere in the state,” Roy told ThePrint.
The Kolkata Police detained BJP state chief Sukanta Majumdar at the police headquarters at Lalbazar when he was enroute Ekbalpore to meet the victims of the clashes. A separate BJP delegation led by Suvendu Adhikari submitted a memorandum at the Raj Bhavan in Kolkata on Monday.
ThePrint reached out to Kolkata Mayor and Trinamool Congress MLA Firhad Hakim — under whose constituency the clash occurred — and Trinamool MP of Kolkata Dakshin Mala Roy through text, telephone, and email. This report will be updated when a response is received.
(Edited by Tony Rai)