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Monday 20 January 2020

Raniganj riots: Centre seeks report from Bengal govt, offers forces

The Home Ministry has sought the report from the West Bengal government and offered to deploy paramilitary forces after local BJP MP Babul Supriyo brought the issue of riots to the notice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh

Raniganj/Kolkata: The Union Home ministry has called for a detailed report from the Bengal government about last Monday’s communal riots in the industrial town of Raniganj over the issue of a Ram Navami procession. The violence claimed the life of one person and injured several others. A senior police officer lost his right arm when a bomb was hurled at the police.

The Narendra Modi government has also sought the opinion of the Mamata Banerjee government on whether the latter required the deployment of paramilitary forces in Raniganj. The State police, the Centre believes, might not be able to bring peace in the area in view of the simmering tension. The riots broke out in the midst of Higher Secondary examinations, affecting the future of thousands of students.

According to the informed sources here on Wednesday, the Home Ministry has sought the report from the West Bengal government and offered to deploy paramilitary forces after local BJP MP Babul Supriyo brought the issue of riots to the notice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and sought their intervention.

Large-scale violence had erupted in Raniganj on Monday after local BJP workers took out a rally to celebrate Ram Navami and wanted to take a procession across the town in the West Burdwan district. They were stopped, allegedly by the Trinamool Congress supporters, from entering a neighbourhood.

The blockade led to a violent clash between the members of the two parties in which sticks, brickbats and other missiles were hurled freely, injuring several people and killing a passer-by.

Finding the situation fast going out of control, a massive police force led by Deputy Commissioner of Police, Asansol-Raniganj Range, Arindam Dutta Chowdhury rushed to the spot and resorted to lathi charge to disperse the warring crowd. In the subsequent mêlée, someone lobbed a powerful bomb towards Dutta Chowdhury, injuring him severely, with his right hand blown off.

Dutta Chowdhury, along with several other injured police personnel, were rushed to a nearby hospital where the condition of the deputy commissioner and other patients of the trauma centre was stated to be critical.

Meanwhile, soon after the incident, the district administration imposed prohibitory orders under 144 CRPC in several areas of the industrial town, about 150 km from Kolkata, to bring peace and urged the people not to be swayed by any rumours.

A number of people from both the BJP and TMC have been arrested, sources said. They described Wednesday’s situation as near normal, with most of the shops and business establishments remaining open and buses, mini-buses and other modes of transport plying on the roads.

State Higher Education minister Partha Chatterjee, however, described the Union Home Ministry’s proposal to despatch paramilitary forces to Raniganj as nothing but a conspiracy to defame the State government before the coming panchayat election. He ruled out the possibility of posting of central security forces there. “Our forces are competent enough to control the situation,” he insisted.

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