state news

West Bengal: Communal riots break out in North 24 Parganas after controversial Facebook post

This triggered a spat between Mamata Banerjee and Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi with the chief minister accusing him of insulting her.

The Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday sent three battalions of paramilitary personnel to West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district after the state government asked for help in the wake of communal clashes. Violence erupted on Monday in Baduria town in Basirhat sub-division of the district over an allegedly “objectionable” post on Facebook, reported PTI. The police have arrested the Hindu man who posted the message.

Deputy Inspector General of the Border Security Force RPS Jaswal confirmed late Tuesday evening to Scroll.in that four companies of the BSF – about 360 personnel – were on their way to Baduria. Jaswal said the personnel are expected to reach the areas affected by the disturbances late on Tuesday.

A top West Bengal police official, who did not wish to be identified, said the situation in Baduria remains tense. The vehicle of the superintendent of police was attacked while he was travelling towards Baduria on Tuesday evening, leaving him with minor injuries.

The Hindustan Times reported that shops and homes of Hindus in Baduria, Swarupnagar and Taki blocks of the district bordering Bangladesh were set afire by Muslim mobs.

A doctor whose clinic is close to the restive areas told Scroll.in how a vast area surrounding Baduria was virtually shut down and the entry and exit of vehicles and people were barred. Bands of youngsters were setting public property on fire and looting shops and houses, he claimed.

The doctor said that while travelling from Machlandapur to a nearby village on Monday afternoon, he encountered two blockades where a Muslim mob allowed him to move only after verifying that he was on an emergency medical call. However, at a third blockade at Jadurhati, the mob was unrelenting and some of them pounced on the ambulance van and smashed its wind screen. The van driver managed to wriggle out with great difficulty, the doctor said.

Mamata Banerjee blames BJP, hits out at Governor

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee condemned the clashes and accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of stoking unrest. “The ruling party at the Centre has an agenda – sometimes in the name of cow protection and the other times to trigger violence by using the social media,” she said, while addressing the media in Kolkata on Tuesday. She added that the pictures that were attached with the Facebook post, which triggered the violence, were old ones.

Banerjee said the matter should have been contained after the police arrested the accused person. “However, another community deliberately flared up the communal angle,” she said.

The chief minister threatened those involved in the violence with strict action. “I will make them pay from their own pockets for the damage of property,” Banerjee said. “Those who have set police vehicles ablaze will be taught lessons.”

The BJP, on the other hand, criticised the chief minister and accused her of being biased. “Shameless exhibition of communal intolerance against Hindus by Muslims in Baduria with indirect support from the ruling party,” the party’s Bengal unit tweeted. Former BJP MLA Samik Bhattacharya told Hindustan Times that the chief minister’s remarks were “absolutely unwelcome”.

The incident also triggered a spat between Banerjee and Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi. The chief minister alleged that she was threatened and “insulted” by the governor. “I have come to power at the mandate of the people… I am not in power at the mercy of the Governor,” she said. She was referring to a telephonic conversation between her and Tripathi after a BJP delegation met the latter the discuss the North 24 Parganas incident.

She accused the governor of acting in a partisan manner. “He [the governor] is speaking like a block president of BJP,” alleged Banerjee. “He has called me threatened me. He cannot do that.”

The press secretary to the governor in a statement late on Tuesday said Tripathi was “surprised at the attitude and language” Banerjee used. “The talks between the Hon’ble Chief Minister and the Hon’ble Governor were confidential in nature and none is expected to disclose it.”

The statement added that nothing in the talks should have made Banerjee feeling “insulted, threatened or humiliated”. “The Hon’ble Governor did say to the Hon’ble Chief Minister to ensure peace and law and order by all means. The Hon’ble Governor always holds the persons, who occupy the Constitutional positions, in high esteem.”

Meanwhile, the BJP’s West Bengal vice president Jayprakash Majumdar, who was part of the three-man delegation that had met the governor, said that the state government had failed to respond to the situation.

With inputs from Subrata Nag Choudhury.

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