KOLKATA: A BJP protest march to the state secretariat in Kolkata on Thursday blew up into a series of street battles between party workers and police that raged for nearly four hours, culminating in injuries on both sides and the detention of 113 people, including a man who was allegedly carrying a 9mm revolver.
State officials said BJP had been informed within two hours of seeking permission for the march that it would not be possible to allow such a procession due to three factors: the Supreme Court’s Wednesday order that Shaheen Bagh-like protests which block roads and public places shouldn’t be allowed, imposition of Section 144 around the state secretariat and the Centre’s disaster management and lockdown norms.
Bombs were allegedly hurled at police in Howrah, inviting retaliation through lathicharge and teargas.
The Hastings belt of central Kolkata, the iconic Howrah Bridge, Howrah Maidan and Santragachhi on the outskirts of the city bore the brunt of the violence that marked the first major political agitation in the city since the start of the pandemic.
After the police detained a 42-year-old BJP supporter with a gun licensed in J&K, Trinamool accused BJP of bringing outsiders to “destroy peace in the state”. “How can political workers carry revolvers to a peaceful rally?” state urban development minister Firhad Hakim said. TMC has lined up a candlelight march on Friday to protest BJP’s “politics of violence”.
State BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said CM Mamata Banerjee had “conceded defeat before the (poll) battle”. “She fled Nabanna (the state secretariat) because she is afraid of facing the people,” he said.
Mamata did visit Nabanna on Thursday afternoon on her return from Jhargram. She spent a few minutes at the state secretariat.
Chief secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, who worked out of Nabanna’s second-floor control room, said the police showed restraint despite provocation.
“Bengal allows peaceful and democratic rallies… not those against the rule of law,” he said, claiming that permission was sought for a gathering 25,000 BJP youth wing members at four different points only on Wednesday.