Prime Minister Narendra Modi cut short his speech in West Bengal on Saturday after a stampede-like situation broke out at the venue. An unidentified police officer told PTI several women and children were injured in the incident.
Modi was addressing a rally in Thakurnagar area of West Bengal’s 24 North Parganas district when hundreds of people who had gathered outside the venue tried to barge into the ground where the rally was organised.
Modi tried to pacify the crowd, asking them to remain in their places and stop making efforts to approach the inner ring of the rally ground which was earmarked for women. However, a few supporters threw chairs into a vacant spot in front of the stage to make space for others to stand.
Following the commotion, the prime minister ended his speech abruptly, saying he had another rally to attend, reports said.
Modi on Saturday began the Bharatiya Janata Party’s campaign for Lok Sabha elections in the state. While addressing a rally in Durgapur later in the day, the prime minister apologised for the chaos that broke out in Thakurnagar. Modi said there were more people present at the rally than the ground could accommodate.
During his speech in Thakurnagar, Modi praised the Centre’s Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. He also asked the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government to support the Bill.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act of 1955 in order to grant citizenship to Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan if they have lived in India for six years, was passed by the Lok Sabha in January. However, it is likely to find opposition in the Rajya Sabha, and is being fiercely opposed by parties and civil society groups in the northeastern states.
“After Independence, many people stayed where they were. But after being tortured, they left and came back to India,” Modi said, NDTV reported. “They had to as Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians have nowhere else to go but India. And that’s why we are bringing the citizenship law. I urge the Trinamool to support it in parliament. My brothers and sisters here need it.”
The prime minister also claimed that Banerjee was “resorting to violence” against her political opponents, according to ANI. “Looking at the response from the people here [Thakurnagar], I now understand why Didi [Banerjee] is resorting to violence,” Modi said. He also spoke about several proposals presented in the interim Budget on Friday.
BJP, TMC workers clash
Clashes broke out between members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal’s Durgapur town on Friday night. BJP members accused the TMC of removing Modi’s posters near the venue of his proposed rally, PTI reported.
BJP state General Secretary Sayantan Basu claimed some party members were injured in the clashes and alleged that Trinamool workers tore up several posters and placards of the prime minister. “They took out our posters and pasted photos of TMC leaders,” he was quoted as saying.
Local Trinamool leaders, however, denied the allegations and claimed that the BJP sprayed black paint on posters of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The police said they have received complaints from both parties and are looking into them.