Clashes Break Out in WB BJP’s March to Nabanna; Cops Use Tear Gas
All roads to the secretariat were blocked as Kolkata saw the police and BJP workers clash.
Clashes broke out between the West Bengal Police and BJP workers during the saffron party's march towards state secretariat, Nabanna, on Thursday, 8 October, to protest against the alleged killing of its workers.
At Howrah's Santragachi, the police used tear gas and water cannon on the BJP workers, police sources were cited by news agency PTI as saying.
Police claim that they also found a fire-arm on a BJP worker in the rally. There are also reports of BJP workers attacking the police with stones and trying to breakthrough barricades that have been put in place all across the city.
The "star attraction" for the rally was Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) President and BJP MP Tejasvi Surya, who landed in Kolkata on Wednesday.
"The police is lathi charging our people...Stone-pelting is being done from Khidirpur side. Can't the police see that?" BJP leader Locket Chatterjee was quoted as saying by ANI as the march got underway.
Meanwhile, party leader Kailash Vijayvargiya accused CM Mamata Banerjee of trying to turn their peaceful demonstration into a violent protest. "Goons along with police pelted stones at us," he reportedly said.
In a press conference after the rally, Tejasvi Surya hit out at the Mamata Banerjee dispensation.
"It's a black day today. Democracy and constitutional rule of law were murdered by the Mamata Banerjee government in broad daylight. India's most corrupt government is in West Bengal. Unemployment is rising due to this syndicate and cut money government," said Surya.
"A youth who raises voice against this is politically murdered. In the past two years, over 120 BJP and BJP Yuva Morcha workers have been murdered in a barbaric and callous manner in the state. This is my first protest; we will throw this government out," he added.
Some BJP leaders, including Surya, also questioned the use of coloured water by the police and said that "chemicals" had been mixed with the water which "caused burning to the skin" and "vomitting".
"I have been told that the water (water cannons) had some chemical in it, which is why people have been vomiting," said Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, reacting to the clashes.
Prasad's claim has, however, been refuted by the government.
What the West Bengal Govt Said
"No chemical was used in cannon water; it is wrong information. The intent globally to use coloured water is to identify a person post dispersal for further necessary action as per the law, if required", said West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay.
Speaking on the police action against the BJP workers, he said that if the rally was allowed to continue with 25,000 people, it would be a "travesty as per lockdown norms".
"Evidence of violent incidents have been found, firearm recovered, policemen were also attacked. 89 persons were detained in the Kolkata Police area & 24 detained in the Howrah Police area. Some police personnel have sustained injuries," he added.
On the eve of the march, called the 'Nabanna Cholo Abhiyaan' by the BJP, the West Bengal government announced that the the secretariat will remain closed for two days due to "sanitisation works".
The West Bengal government also wrote to the BJP saying that their letter for the protest march reached the government at "the last minute". The letter cited the Supreme Court order on protests, saying that common areas cannot be blocked for the same.
The state also said that the rally should not have more than 100 people, categorically saying that the proposed 25,000 people in each of the small rallies that will culminate at Nabanna, is not permissible under the existing COVID-19 norms.
The government also reminded the BJP that section 144 of the CrPC is applicable around the secretariat and that they should plan to protest in an area where the same will not be violated.
The BJP, however, did not seem to pay heed to the government's letter as thousands of party workers gathered in different parts of Kolkata for the rally.
The rally path was highly fortified with strong police presence, and water tanks in place. All roads to the secretariat were also blocked.
Four rallies started from different parts of the city, led by BJP state president Dilip Ghosh, national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, BJYM Bengal president, Soumitra Khan, and BJYM president Tejasvi Surya. These rallies will then culminate and march towards Nabanna, said the BJP.
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