The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers were lathi-charged and tear-gassed by the Kolkata Police on Wednesday, June 12, during a rally conducted to protest against the killing of its party workers in the state.
"Several BJP workers including state general secretary Raja Banerjee were injured in the lathi-charge," the official Twitter handle of BJP in Bengal tweeted.
Close to one lakh people were expected to take part in the march held by the BJP in West Bengal, which called for the arrest of the killers of BJP workers and demanded maximum punishment for them. The march, which began at central Kolkata's Subodh Mullick Square, was supposed to conclude at the Kolkata Police Headquarters in Lalbazar.
The state has seen numerous instances of political violence in the days after the Lok Sabha election of 2019. Both the Trinamool Congress and BJP have blamed each other for the political killings of party workers and stoking political unrest.
Events that led to the present situation in the state:
Ahead of the seventh and final phase of the Lok Sabha 2019 elections, Amit Shah held a roadshow in West Bengal on May 14, during which a violent clash broke out between the TMC and BJP workers. The Vidyasagar college was ransacked and the statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was vandalised.
"Today, the way BJP's roadshow got a response in Kolkata, with almost every citizen attending it, TMC's goons were frustrated and so attacked it. I would like to congratulate the BJP workers as even after such chaos the roadshow continued and concluded at the planned place and time," Amit Shah had said, after the incident.
Amit Shah had also accused the TMC of creating an atmosphere of violence in West Bengal. Speaking at a press conference at the BJP headquarter in Delhi, Shah said: "In the last six phases, only Bengal has witnessed violence. Mamata Banerjee claims that BJP is behind the violence [in Bengal]. I want to tell her you are fighting on just 42 seats. We are fighting across the country. We are pitted against everyone but there has been no violence elsewhere."
Responding to Shah's comments, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that she will give a befitting reply to the BJP hooligans who vandalised Vidyasagar college.
Sharing videos of the incident on Twitter, TMC leader Derek O'Brien also said: "Desperate BJP goons from outside Bengal smash a statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar inside the college. Violent mob of BJP 'outsiders' in presence of Pukeworthy Shah. How little you know about Bengal, its rich history, its culture. Bengal will never forgive for what you did today."
Tensions between BJP and the ruling TMC only increased after BJP managed to secure 18 out of the total 42 seats in the LS polls. The Trinamool Congress had to settle with 22 seats while the Congress party won two seats in the state.
CM Mamata Banerjee also imposed a ban on victory processions of the BJP earlier this month, stating that they were triggering violence across Bengal, and instructed the police to take "strong action against BJP leaders if they try to create trouble".
The BJP, however, had reportedly vowed to defy the ban on its political programmes, including victory processions. The BJP in the state observed a "black day" across the state on June 10 to protest against the killings of its workers. Further clashes had broken out during the day when police allegedly stopped BJP workers from taking away the bodies of the slain party workers.
Instances of continuing tension in the state:
- A Bharatiya Janata Party worker in West Bengal was killed while putting up the party's flags in Burdwan district on May 30.
- Two Trinamool Congress workers were killed in two separate incidents in West Bengal, on June 4 and 5. TMC supporters blamed BJP for both the killings. BJP MP from Cooch Behar refuted the claims made by TMC workers and said that the killings took place because of personal issues.
- Three BJP workers and a TMC worker were killed in a clash that broke out over removing party flags in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district, on June 8. The BJP carried out a bandh, blocked roads and held protests across the state afterwards.
- The Home Ministry issued an advisory on June 9, stating that the Centre had viewed the current situation in West Bengal with "deep concern." "The centre has expressed deep concern over continuing violence in West Bengal even after conclusion of General Elections and issued an advisory to the State Government," a senior home ministry official reportedly said.
- West Bengal government called the instances of violence "stray post-poll clashes" and said that "firm and appropriate actions" were initiated in all cases of violence in a letter addressed to the Union Home Ministry on June 9. "The situation is under control and it may not be construed under any circumstance to be a failure on the part of the law enforcement machinery of the State to maintain the rule of law and impure confidence among the people," the letter said.
Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee described the Centre sending the advisory as a conspiracy against the state government.
- West Bengal BJP leader Mukul Roy wrote to the Union Home Minister Amit Shah on June 11, claiming that there has been a "complete breakdown of state machinery and if steps are not taken urgently to contain the situation, the same will go out of hands."
West Bengal: BJP leader Mukul Roy writes to Home Minister Amit Shah in response to the letter TMC wrote to HM on June 9; states,'There has been a complete breakdown of state machinery and if steps are not taken urgently to contain the situation, the same will go out of hands.' pic.twitter.com/2tCLcTJOCl— ANI (@ANI) June 11, 2019
- BJP in the state took to twitter and blamed the TMC workers for the murder of Anil Singh, a BJP worker from Englishbazar, on Wednesday, June 12, just hours before the march.
Anil Singh, another BJP worker from Englishbazar, Malda was brutally murdered and burnt by @mamataofficial’s goons. He was missing from last few days.— BJP Bengal (@BJP4Bengal) June 12, 2019
Why are the chest thumping liberals of ‘award wapasi’ fame silent now?
Is it because West Bengal is not ruled by the BJP, yet? pic.twitter.com/WN3Ajhuxb4
The state had seen violence in the run up to the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections as well. West Bengal Governor, Keshari Nath Tripathi, also expressed concern after the violence North 24 Parganas district, on June 8. "Governor Tripathi is sad at unfortunate loss of lives and properties of citizens. Extends his heartfelt sympathy for families of deceased. Appeals to all to see to it that no violent incidents take place, and peace and harmony prevail in state," the governor's press secretary said.