West Bengal Violence over FB Post, BJP’s Roopa Ganguly Arrested


On Friday morning, the West Bengal police detained a clutch of prominent politicians to avoid them from going to violence-hit Basirhat that is rocked by communal violence over a questionable Facebook post. The Police detained BJP leaders Roopa Ganguly and Locket Chatterjee near to the Kolkata airport terminal when they insisted on proceeding to Basirhat, around 12 km from the Bangladesh boundary that has seen an assault by Muslim mobs and retaliatory attacks over four times.

Previous to this, the police also averted a team of Left leaders by Lok Sabha MP Md Salim and a Congress team from arriving at the troubled location. The left team was hindered at Michaelnagar, around 50 km away. However, the situation in Basirhat was nonviolent on Friday morning after meetings between the local people and cops on Thursday nighttime. Some shops opened up in areas like Tyantra, Raghunathpur, Harishpur, Maitra Bagan and Bhyabla in Basirhat on Friday morning. On the other hand, some vehicles were also plying on the streets. There have been no reports of any assault from areas such as Swarupnagar and Baduria, where in fact the trouble started. The area is still under prohibitory orders and internet services continued to be suspended for the 3rd day in a row.

On Thursday afternoon, Basirhat practically converted into a war area as Hindu mobs clashed with the cops and vandalized homes and shops owned by the minorities. The violent behavior ebbed only after Thursday evening. Pintu Hati, a resident of Harishpur, said that “After 8 pm on Thursday police officers held extensive meetings with the people in the Hindu-dominated localities of Basirhat town, and following assurances by the officers that the areas will not come under attack from Muslim mobs, road blockades were lifted”. “All we wanted from the police was assurance that our homes, shops, and properties won’t be targeted by anybody. We have no intention of attacking anyone. We have lived peacefully for decades in this area, and that harmony has to be restored,” Ganesh Mondal, a resident of Mailakhola which is a part of Barishat town, said on Fri morning.

The locals claimed that the police have detained more than 30 people, almost all of them Muslims. On the other hand, cops continued to be tight-lipped. They said they have got only arrested the class 11 student, whose Facebook post brought on the violence on Sunday night. After Sunday night, Muslim mobs have arranged shops and buildings on fire and clashed with cops, infuriated by the Facebook post, in areas such as Bashirhat, Baduria, Swarupnagar in North 24 Parganas region that border Bangladesh. A 65-year-old man died of stab injuries in Kolkata on Thursday. Kartik Ghosh was attacked by mobs with sharpened items when he was going back home on the motorcycle on Wednesday afternoon. This is the first death in violence that has swept the Basirhat region, hardly 12 kilometers from the Bangladesh border.

As tensions increased in the region on Thursday night, mobs attacked a Dargah and vandalized shops and houses owned by Muslims in what local people referred to as retaliatory attacks. A big team of policemen battled for hours to scatter the masses by caning and firing tear gas shells, but without much accomplishment. Upset mobs arranged tires burning and noises of local-made bombs exploding could be heard. The house of an area Trinamool Congress politician and a party office also came up under attack from a Hindu mob the same evening. “I was at the Basirhat police station when a group of anti-social elements descended on my house around 5.30pm,” Basirhat (south) MLA Dipendu Biswas informed Hindustan Times. The reports surfaced that Trinamool leaders were not satisfied with Biswas’ activities in the area, and also have summoned him to the party office in Kolkata on Fri.

The residents of Harishpur and Mailakhola villages also alleged that the MLA supported the cops when they visited Hindu-dominated areas searching for weapons. On the other hand, the Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee has asked all the political parties to avoid going to the riot-affected area until peace is returned. She said on Thursday evening that “Please cooperate with the government”. The violence has been used as a political color with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, accusing the chief minister of appeasing Muslims and the ruling Trinamool Congress claims the saffron party was inflaming communal passions to get benefit in the elections. A team of three BJP MPs – Meenakshi Lekhi, Satyapal Singh and Om Prakash Mathur – are planned to go to Basirhat on Friday, and submit a written report to the party president Amit Shah. But the sources of state government informed Hindustan Times that the local administration was more likely to block their entrance, setting the level of new confrontation.