As the country grapples with worsening coronavirus pandemic, communal clashes broke out in West Bengal's Hooghly after people from one community allegedly called a group of people from another community as "corona" after one of them recently tested COVID-19 positive. The clashes took place in the Telinipara area of Hooghly on Monday, following which 37 people were detained by the West Bengal police.

West Bengal communal clashes Hoogli Malda
Smoke emanating from a house in the area where the clashes erupted.Screengrab of Twitter video

According to the police, a verbal spat led to the fight and then people from one community were blocked from accessing community toilets resulting in a fight. The mob hurled bombs and set shops and public property on fire, prompting police to deploy a huge force to bring the situation under control. The area has been sealed by the police and Section 144 has been imposed in the area.

"Some people were addressed as 'corona'. And it all started from there. After a verbal spat, one group blocked another from entering a community bathroom in the Victoria Jute Mills area of Telinipara, which led to a fight," quoted Chandannagar Police Commissioner Humayun Kabir as saying.

Kabir said that police baton-charged people and fired 26 rounds of tear gas and ten rounds of rubber bullets to disperse the crowd. "We continued raids throughout the night and detained 37 people. Our raids are still on," he added.

Clashes in Malda

Earlier on Sunday, clashes had also been reported between residents of two villages after 12 people from one of the villages found coronavirus positive. Villagers in Chandipur had reportedly sealed their village after 12 people from Manikpur village tested coronavirus positive.

An argument between two groups of people turned into massive clashes after people from Manikpur went to buy essentials from Chandipur. Police arrested six people in connection with the clashes and imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Soon the issues took a political colour and Dilip Ghosh, the Bengal BJP chief and MP, said, "Bombs and guns were used and the clash turned communal, an example of law and order breakdown in Bengal. A fight against corona turned into a communal fight."

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has reportedly ordered police to take strict action against those violating the law, irrespective of which party they belong to. In a tweet, state home secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay said, "Police will not allow any provocation, and strict action will be taken against anyone who tries to create disturbance including those who are posting and circulating false information."