Violence breaks out in Bengal's Howrah on Ram Navami, riot police called in; Mamata Banerjee blames BJP, vows action
Kolkata/IBNS: Several vehicles were set on fire, stones were thrown and shops were ransacked as clashes between two groups broke out in West Bengal's Howrah amid Ram Navami celebrations on Thursday forcing riot control police to march across several parts of the sears as well as Kolkata.
Heavy deployment of police is in place after television visuals showed several vehicles engulfed in flames.
The violence broke out when a Ram Navami procession was crossing the Kazipara locality.
A number of cars, including a few police vehicles, were damaged during the violence and the security personnel had to fire tear gas shells to disperse the mob.
Mamata Banerjee's reaction:
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who was on a two-day sit-in protest (dharna) in Kolkata against Centre's policies, called "rioters the enemy of the country" and said those behind today's violence "will not be spared".
"Those who were involved in today's violence will not be spared based on any excuse. As far as the police are concerned, they are working tirelessly, but at times they find themselves in a tough situation to have good relations on both sides and maintain peace," Banerjee said.
"Let me make this very clear, in today's incident, the ones who have given safe passage to the offenders, I will take strong action against them. There were clear instructions to mark the routes for the procession. I do not support the riot-mongers and consider them the enemy of the country," she said.
In a direct dig at the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bengal, the CM said: "They (BJP) have always targeted Howrah. The other targets for them are Park Circus and Islampur. Everybody must be alert in their localities."
"They have been hiring goons from outside the state to orchestrate communal riots. Nobody has stopped their processions but they do not have the right to march with swords and bulldozers. How did they get the audacity to do this in Howrah?"
Reiterating that she would not block any Ram Navami processions, Banerjee said: "Why did they change the route (at the last moment) and take the unauthorised route to particularly target and attack one community (in Howrah)?"
"If they believe that they will attack others and get relief through legal interventions, they must know that the people will reject them one day. Those who haven't done any wrong will not be arrested but action will be taken against perpetrators, irrespective of their faith," she said.
Senior BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, however, denied her charges and blamed the Trinamool government for the violence.
"The Chief Minister and the state administration are responsible for the violence," Adhikari said.
On Monday, the BJP slammed the Trinamool Congress for announcing protests on March 30, the day of Ram Navami celebrations.
Suvendhu Adhikari, the leader of the opposition in the state assembly, said those who believe in the "sanatan culture" will celebrate Ram's birth anniversary.
Instead of declaring a holiday on the day, she has announced protests after making "fabricated and false" claims, he alleged.
Coming down heavily on the state BJP, Mamata Banerjee said: "Time and again, they keep trying to stoke communal violence and it is the only thing they're good at. Even today, they caused communal violence in Howrah."
"I have repeatedly said that I will not block any Ram Navami procession. I had given instructions to my party workers as well as the police. While one community is celebrating Annapurna Puja, the other is observing fast during Ramzan. We have over 33 percent of Muslims in the state and they fast and pray during this significant period," she added.