BJP workers marching to West Bengal secretariat clash with police
The West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party's march to the state secretariat, Nabanna, turned violent on Thursday as BJP workers clashed with cops in Kolkata. They were marching toward the Nabanna as part of their 'Nabanna Cholo Abhiyaan' to protest against the alleged killing of its workers. The police reportedly used teargas and water cannons to disperse the crowds. Here are more details.
The BJP's protest was launched after party leader Manish Shukla was shot dead by masked gunmen on bikes in North 24 Parganas' Titagarh on Sunday night. An FIR filed by Shukla's father names ruling-Trinamool Congress leaders Prasanta Chowdhury and Uttam Das. The police reportedly suspect a "murder for revenge," as Shukla's name figures in 16 criminal cases. An investigation is underway.
The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha was then tasked to lead the Nabanna rally with a seven-point agenda, covering unemployment, the deteriorating law and order situation, etc. On Wednesday evening, the state government announced the secretariat will remain closed for two days for "sanitization works." It also wrote to the BJP claiming that the latter's letter for the march had reached them the "last minute."
The government pointed to a recent Supreme Court order barring the occupation of public places by protesters. In the letter, it also highlighted COVID-19 norms of social distancing and warned that Section 144 of the CrPC is applicable around the secretariat.
The BJP continued their march regardless, with the newly-appointed BJYM President Tejasvi Surya being the "star attraction" at the rally. Surya has alleged that over 110 BJP workers have been killed in the state. Four rallies started from different parts of Kolkata—led by BJP State President Dilip Ghosh, national General-Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJYM Bengal President Soumitra Khan, and Surya.
Ahead of the protest, the police had been deployed along the designated rally paths, with water tanks in place, and all roads to the secretariat were blocked. The protesters were seen breaking through the barricades. The rally then turned violent and the police resorted to baton-charging the protesters. Teargas and water cannons were also used to disperse the protesters from the area.
#WATCH Howrah: BJP workers try to break police barricade put in place to stop the Party's 'Nabanna Chalo' agitation against the alleged killing of party workers in the state; police use tear gas to bring the situation under control.#WestBengal pic.twitter.com/ChQdi0NYXj— ANI (@ANI) October 8, 2020
The state police blamed the protesters for resorting to violence, compelling the police to respond with force. A senior officer of Howrah Police told The Indian Express, "Party workers hurled bombs at policemen and rained bricks and stones. We had to ensure law and order is maintained." Sources told the publication that arms were seized from one of the protesters in Howrah Maidan.
West Bengal: BJP workers set ablaze tires in Howrah during party's state-wide 'Nabanna Chalo' agitation against the alleged killings of its workers. pic.twitter.com/CxWNZ7NayL— ANI (@ANI) October 8, 2020
However, BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya accused the cops of stone-pelting at them along with the "goons." This turned their "peaceful demonstration" into a violent protest, he said. Party leader Locket Chatterjee also told ANI that the stones were being pelted from Khidirpur, a Muslim-dominated region. Reportedly, BJP state Vice President Raju Banerjee and MP Jyotirmoy Singh Mahato were among those who sustained injuries.