The Bharatiya Janata Party unit in West Bengal on Monday lashed out at the Mamata Banerjee-led government and the Howrah Police for a “peace march” that led to overcrowding. The peace march, organised by the police force on Sunday, was held in Tikiapara area of the district to protest against a mob attack on police personnel trying to enforce the coronavirus lockdown.
Videos of the incident showed people walking the street in large numbers, ignoring physical distancing norms, even as others showered rose petals on the policemen from buildings on either side. Howrah is one of the hotspot districts in West Bengal, designated as a “red zone”.
However, the Howrah Police claimed in a tweet that members of the public “came out suddenly” to express their thanks to the police. “Today while patrolling in Tikiapara, people came out suddenly & expressed thanks to police,” it tweeted. “They also threw petals on patrolling party from roofs. On seeing the crowd, Police expressed thanks for support and requested people to return to their homes.”
West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh condemned the incident. “Procession for Communal Harmony under the initiative of Police at Howrah, Tikiapara,” he tweeted. “Why will the common people abide by the rules of lockdown if the police refuses to obey them? Was the performance of such spectacle absolutely necessary?”
The state BJP unit, in a tweet, wondered whether the state government had abdicated all its responsibilities. It also wondered how bad the lockdown situation could be in other areas of West Bengal.
BJP MP Swapan Dasgupta on Sunday accused the Banerjee-led government of wilfully ignoring lockdown norms in red zones. He said it was time for the Centre to consider taking steps against the state government, using Article 355 of the Indian Constitution, which enjoins upon the Union government the duty to ensure that the government of every state is carried out without external aggression or internal disturbance.
He also claimed that earlier in the day that he was unable to post any tweet on the violation of the lockdown, and asked Twitter Support to look into the matter.
On Monday, Dasgupta posted a video of the march.
The nationwide lockdown, first imposed on March 25, has been extended till May 17. West Bengal has so far reported 963 cases of Covid-19, including 39 deaths, according to data collected by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. However, the Banerjee-led government has been accused of fudging data, by no less than Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, who has claimed that the actual number of cases and deaths is much higher.
Two inter-ministerial central teams had visited West Bengal last month to review the lockdown situation. However, the teams complained that they were denied access to certain areas. The state government denied the allegation, and claimed that it was not informed in advance about the visit of the teams.