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Ram Mandir Consecration: 14 Injured After Communal Clash In West Bengal's Howrah

Clashes broke out in Howrah following a religious procession on 24 January, 2 days after the Ram Mandir event.

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Clashes broke out between two communities following a religious procession that turned violent on Wednesday, January 24 in Howrah district of West Bengal.

The communal clash that took place just two days after the grand inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, left 14 persons injured including a senior police officer.

The incident occurred on Wednesday night when an Urs procession was being taken out by members of the Muslim community to celebrate the birth anniversary of Hazrat Ali, son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad at Belilious road in Central Howrah. Muslims alleged that the Hindus who started the violence and chanted 'Jai Shri Ram' while the latter accused the Muslims of stone pelting and tearing their religious posters.

Allegations Of Tearing Posters

Vikram Singh, 40, a four-wheeler driver, who sustained severe head injuries alleged while speaking to The Quint that around 100-150 men who were in the procession came running towards their locality around 10 pm on Wednesday night and began tearing the posters of Hindu Gods and flags that were put up to celebrate the consecration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya on January 22.

Clashes broke out in Howrah following a religious procession on 24 January, 2 days after the Ram Mandir event.

Vikram Singh

(Gurvinder Singh/ The Quint) 

“We were inside our homes as it was chilly cold due to rains in evening but suddenly we were jolted by the noise of an unruly mob who began chanting slogans and tearing our religious posters and banners. We rushed outside and warned them against it. They went back after facing a strong opposition by us but soon returned within minutes and began to pelt stones on us. It was a sudden attack that left scores of us injured," Singh alleged.

Anand Kumar Gupta, 37, who runs a construction material shop in the same area, claimed that the mob began pelting stones without any provocation.

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Clashes broke out in Howrah following a religious procession on 24 January, 2 days after the Ram Mandir event.

Anand Kumar Gupta

(Gurvinder Singh/ The Quint) 

“We were just about to close our shops when we saw the crowd marching towards us. Soon, the violence broke out. We had a grand celebration here on January 22 when big screens were installed for locals to watch the consecration ceremony in Ayodhya and the area was festooned with lights and religious banners. But the attack has left us shocked and it has also affected our business as the shops are closed in the area. Cops have clamped Section 144 that prohibits the assembly of four or more persons," Gupta claimed.

The Belilious road area in Howrah where the incident occurred has a population of around 3 lakhs with both the communities having almost equal numbers.

Clashes broke out in Howrah following a religious procession on 24 January, 2 days after the Ram Mandir event.

Belilious road in Howrah was decorated to celebrate the consecration ceremony in Ayodhya.   

Local BJP leader Sanjay Singh accused the police of turning up late to control the violence.

"The police station is barely 500 metres away from the spot but the cops turned up around 90 minutes after the incident broke out. Even handful of cops was deployed when the procession was being taken out. Timely action by cops could have prevented the situation from going out of control. The mob that attacked us comprised mainly of youths between 18-22 years of age," Singh claimed.

Allegations of Provocation

The Muslim community, however, blamed the members of the Hindu community for the assault.

Zafar Ali, 34, who claimed to be an eyewitness told The Quint that a mob of around 1000-1500 people were participating in the religious procession which was started from a local market around 830 pm (Wednesday) and was supposed to cover a distance of 800 metres before returning.

Clashes broke out in Howrah following a religious procession on 24 January, 2 days after the Ram Mandir event.

Zafar Ali

(Gurvinder Singh/ The Quint) 

“The police had barricaded our destination from where we were supposed to return. The procession was peaceful till we reached the end point but we heard slogans of Jai Shri Ram from other side that were raised to provoke us. Some of our youths jumped the barricade and went to the other side but they were attacked with swords and other sharp weapons. Soon, stone pelting also began from other side and we were forced to run for our lives," Ali claimed.

Raes Alam alias Sunny, a local TMC leader being accused of inciting tension by BJP said that he was trying to convince his community members to refrain from violence and not get provoked by any slogans. “I also came under attack but had a miraculous escape after my friend, a Hindu, saved me from the mob. I tried my best to calm down the tempers to maintain the communal harmony. Our leader (Mamata Banerjee) has never taught us to get engaged in such unlawful activities," Alam said.

Clashes broke out in Howrah following a religious procession on 24 January, 2 days after the Ram Mandir event.

Raes Alam alias Sunny

(Gurvinder Singh/ The Quint) 

14 Injured, No Arrests Yet

Around 14 people were injured in the incident including Sandip Pakhira, Officer-in-Charge of Howrah Police station under whose jurisdiction the incident occurred.

No arrests have been made so far.

Howrah Commissioner of Police Praveen Kumar Tripathi said that steps have been taken to ensure peace. “The situation is under control. We are trying to identify those behind the violence. We are also checking CCTV footage," Tripathi said.

Clashes broke out in Howrah following a religious procession on 24 January, 2 days after the Ram Mandir event.

Blame Game

State minister and local MLA Arup Roy also condemned the incident, “We have already instructed the police to conduct a thorough investigation and nab those involved in it. But such violent incidents disturb the communal harmony.”

Union Minister Smriti Irani who was on a visit to Kolkata on Thursday reacted strongly to the incident, “The police were nowhere to be see when the Ram devotees were pelted with stones but they were out in big numbers to stop the live screening of PM Modi’s interaction with young voters in Kolkata. This shows that they have no respect towards Ram devotees,” she alleged.

Tension broke out between the two communities during a Ram Navami procession in Howrah district, around 2 kilometres from the recent violence, on 30 March last year. Several shops were vandalised and vehicles were burnt in the violence. A few days later, communal tensions were reported in Rishra area of Hooghly district, around 25 kilometres from Kolkata due to Ram Navami procession in the first week of April.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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