Purulia: With no concern for law and order, elders armed teenagers, participating in Ram Navami festivities in the district of Purulia in West Bengal, with sharp weapons such as swords and axes. A group turned so audacious, it organised a short, choreographed sword-fight before the police headquarters in the district. The image below is a photograph taken by one of the policemen on duty on the spot.
Along with an open display of arms, members of different processions played loud music on loudspeakers. The administration was reduced to a mute spectator on the day. “We have registered complaints wherever there have been reports of violations of the law,” said the collector, Alokesh Prasad Ray.
The parts of Purulia that were quiet bore the look of a city under curfew, as either the residents were participating in the religious rallies in large numbers or were too intimidated by the armed revellers to venture out. Or, this was an unofficial bandh (strike) by the party ruling the State, aimed at turning the RSS-inspired festival, which began just last year in Bengal, into a low-key affair.
All shops remained closed in Purulia. A few State buses were seen plying on the roads in the name of transportation, even as one procession after another passed through the streets.
At about 11 AM on Monday, the Bajrang Dal took a procession out from the Hanuman temple at the Goshala Mod. It traversed the entire city. The demonstrators finally congregated at the biggest taxi stand in the city for a public meeting.
Several BJP leaders in the city participated in the Bajrang Dal event, but the majority in the crowd comprised ordinary citizens. Teens, both boys and girls, participated in the events enthusiastically and in large numbers. Many infants were noticed in the procession, taken along by their parents and guardians.
The sight of such heavy presence of minors with sharp weapons has led to a legal-political debate in the State. Recently, West Bengal’s Commission for Protection of Child Rights had written to collectors of all districts of the State, warning them against letting minors carry any kind of weapons. Clearly, the local administrations couldn’t care less.
Despite being situated on the border with Jharkhand, Purulia had never observed Ram Navami with such gusto until recently. Let alone teens, even adults have not been noticed before, carrying lethal weapons during Ram Navami celebrations.
Trouble began in the Beldi village of Arsha as local politicians of the TMC raised an objection to the procession while some miscreants set some shops on fire. Several motorcycles parked along the road were gutted in the fire while the targeted shop was reduced to ash.
When the police arrived, the cops were attacked. A seriously injured DSP (HQ) Subroto Kumar Pal and two of his injured colleagues were taken to the Deben Mahato General Hospital in Purulia. Collector Ray paid a visit to the injured policemen at the hospital.
A man called Sheikh Shah Jahan died in an incident of festival-related violence.
A contrasting picture emerged from Balrampur. Here, Muslims were seen offering water to Bajrang Dal activists as the latter braved the summer heat to march through the city.