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Clashes in Bengal, Assam over Ram temple celebrations

Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Roshneesh Kmaneck
Last updated on: August 06, 2020 00:14 IST
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There were sporadic clashes between the police and saffron activists across West Bengal on Wednesday for defying the total lockdown and holding celebrations for the ground breaking ceremony of the Ayodhya Ram Temple.

In Assam, several persons were injured in a clash between two communities in Sonitpur district on Wednesday after a bike rally was organised by Bajrang Dal members to celebrate the foundation stone laying ceremony of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, officials said.

IMAGE: BJP activists celebrate the ground breaking ceremony of proposed Ram temple in Ayodhya, during the complete biweekly lockdown to curb COVID-19 spread, in Kolkata. Photograph: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI Photo

 

WEST BENGAL

Normal life was completely crippled in the state due to the lockdown, the fourth in a fortnight.

According to the police more than 2,550 people were arrested from various parts of the state, including 850 from Kolkata, for violating the lockdown 'irrespective of their reasons'.

Clashes were reported from Kharagpur in West Midnapore district, Narayanpur in North 24 Parganas, Coochbehar and Alipurduar towns in north Bengal, among others.

At Kharagpur a procession by Bharatiya Janata Party workers to mark the day was stopped by the police leading to a scuffle.

"Some policemen were injured in the incident and several BJP workers were arrested," a police official said.

In Alipurduar town BJP workers were stopped from organising a bhoomi poojan celebration in the midst of the total lockdown leading to a tense situation.

BJP workers also tried to organise a 'yagna' at Narayanpur area but were stopped by locals. Police said 'force' had to be used to disperse the crowd.

"BJP was trying to disturb the peace in the area but local people stopped them," local Trinamool Congress leader Tapas Chatterjee said.

Scuffles with the police were also reported from Coochbehar district where BJP supporters were stopped from holding a rally to celebrate the bhoomi pujan for the Ram Temple at Ayodhya.

State BJP president Dilip Ghosh, who organised a 'bhoomi pujan' celebration at his residence in New Town in Kolkata, said the crackdown by the police reflected the 'anti-Hindu mindset' of the state government.

"The TMC government has deliberately disregarded the sentiments of the Hindus in the state," he claimed.

"We were requesting (the state government) for the last few days to change the date of the total lockdown, but it was not heeded. When devotees of Lord Ram want to celebrate the day in a small way in Bengal, they are stopped by the police," Ghosh added.

BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya lashed out at the Mamata Banerjee government for the police action.

'Lord Ram is worshipped around the world. But @MamataOfficial government is insulting the beliefs of the Hindus. Are we living in the land of sharia that we can't celebrate Lord Ram in Bengal?' he tweeted.

Hitting back, senior Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy said the allegations are baseless.

"There is no harm in celebrations, but the lockdown has been clamped due to COVID-19. All of us should respect that and abide by it," he said.

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and BJP workers in Kolkata celebrated the laying of the foundation stone for the Ram Temple.

Rituals were held in areas like Baghbazar and Burrabazar.

Celebrations were organised by BJP and right-wing outfits in several other parts of the state and went off peacefully.

A 'yagna' was organised by BJP workers at Rajganj in the Jalpaiguri district.

In many districts, Trinamool Congress workers and leaders too organised 'Ram puja' to mark the day.

Normal life was crippled in most parts of the state due to the lockdown on Wednesday, which was part of the twice a week measure by the state government since July 23 to break the chain of the contagion.

Public transport was off the roads and government and private offices, banks and commercial establishments, remained shut.

Only those involved in essential services like health establishments, besides pharmacies and petrol pumps functioned.

Flight services to and from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport were suspended for the day and long-distance trains were rescheduled due to the lockdown, the fourth in a fortnight.

Schools, colleges and other educational institutions in the state had remained closed since late March when the first phase of the nationwide lockdown was imposed.

The West Bengal government has imposed total lockdown in the state on August 5, 8, 20, 21, 27, 28 and 31 as per a notification issued on Monday.

The state's caseload reached 83,800 while its coronavirus death toll rose to 1,846 on Tuesday, a health department bulletin said.

ASSAM

Police fired in the air and deployed additional forces to control the situation in Sonitpur district after many bikes and other vehicles were burnt, officials said.

Indefinite curfew was also imposed in areas under the jurisdictions of Thelamara and Dhekiajuli police stations, they added.

The incident took place when a large number of bikers were heading to a Shiv temple in Bhora Singori in the Thelamara police station area, playing loud music and shouting slogans.

"Locals objected to the group playing loud music in their area. They also asked why the rally was organised when the people were fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to arguments, which eventually turned ugly and a clash started," a senior official said.

Sonitpur district's Deputy Commissioner Manvendra Pratap Singh, who reached the spot immediately, was attacked by the two groups. They threw stones at him, smashing the front windscreen of his official multi-utility vehicle.

Superintendent of Police Mugdhajyoti Dev Mahanta is at the spot to monitor the situation.

"To control the situation, which turned into a communal clash, police first lathi-charged and then fired in the air. We have deployed additional forces after many bikes and other vehicles were burnt," Singh said.

The bikers did not have any permission to bring out the procession and an alleged minor accident involving one of the riders and a local fuelled the clash, he added.

"When we were trying to pacify the people, they started throwing stones at us as well. The front windscreen of my vehicle was smashed. My escort jeep was also attacked by a bamboo but it was not damaged," Singh informed.

Additional SP Numal Mahata said police fired 10 rounds in the air to disperse the mob but no arrest has been made yet.

Singh said, "Our prime aim was to control the situation and bring normalcy in the area. It was not an easy task to bring the situation under control when around 500 people were engaged in a clash. However, we successfully controlled the situation."

The local people burnt several bikes and a four-wheeler of the Bajrang Dal members who were also carrying sharp weapons, he added.

The Bajrang Dal members alleged that at least 12 of them have been injured.

When asked about the number of persons injured, the deputy commissioner said, "We cannot say it immediately as it became dark and there was a huge crowd. We will be able to say it tomorrow after taking stock of the situation."

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Roshneesh Kmaneck© Copyright 2020 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
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