The West Bengal unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) appealed to Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar today to intervene and discipline the state police that is ‘mishandling’ the communal riot at Telinipara in Hooghly near Howrah. This district was among several others that had witnessed riots just two years ago.
“Even after they were detected to have contracted the coronavirus disease (COVID), a certain group of people did not want to go to quarantine. What was the administration supposed to do then?” BJP MP from the area Locket Chatterjee asked.
“The whole of Chandannagar is now terrified and frightened due to the conduct of the minority community and the failure of the police,” Chatterjee said.
“They vandalised properties, looted things and thrashed people in Telinipara yesterday as some coronavirus-infected patients were prevented from roaming freely,” the MP said.
“Earlier, a similar scene was witnessed at the Singur Quarantine Centre where the community attacked the police. Is this moger muluk (lawless land)?” Chatterjee exclaimed.
Barrackpore MP Arjun Singh, emerging from the meeting with the governor, criticised the role of the state government in the Telinipara incident. He said, “Police are presiding over the plunder in Telinipara. Everything is happening in front of the police. They have been instructed to let Hindus suffer while protecting Muslims.”
BJP leaders Pratap Banerjee, Mukul Roy and Rajarhat MLA Sabyasachi Dutta, along with Chatterjee and Singh, were part of the delegation that had gone to meet the governor.
From the archives: Chandrakona, Naihati, Katwa riots preceded Dhulagarh
Trouble had begun on Sunday when on hearing about communal tensions in the area, BJP MP Locket Chatterjee tried to visit the place but was stopped at the Mankundu Jyoti More, well short of the affected area. People in areas of Chandannagar and Bhadreshwar in the Hooghly district are living in a state of panic due to the clashes between Muslims and Hindus that have been raging since Sunday evening.
Tensions flared up again on Tuesday in the morning as Muslim mobs hurled bombs in the area following which Hindu locals pelted stones at the Muslim mob.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is not able to bring such a small area under her control, Singh alleged. “She is trying to convey the message that this is what will happen to anybody who opposes her,” the MP said. He also alleged that the riots were being stage-managed by inviting criminals from outside with the help of the police.
Singh said the BJP would not tolerate this “administrative bias”. He said, “If the administration does not listen to us, we will be forced to go there. We have to stand by the affected people.”
“The way people are being killed and looted there, a people’s representative cannot just do nothing. We came to the governor and shared with him all the information. I have requested the governor to visit Telinipara,” Singh said.
MP Chatterjee slammed the state government for not allowing local MPs to enter the riot-hit area. She said, “There has been unrest in Telinipara for three days. There was unrest even amidst the heavy rain on Sunday evening.”
“When I tried to visit the affected area yesterday, I was not allowed to enter,” the MP of the area said, adding, “The police commissioner asked me to go to the Chandannagar police station to meet him. However, even after going there, he did not meet me.”
“The police are not ready to talk to even an MP!” Chatterjee was amused.
The administration has imposed Section 144 in the Telinipara area of the Hooghly district in West Bengal after the fresh clashes. According to sources, a Muslim mob hurled crude bombs in the area, unhappy with the state government’s declaration of their ghetto as a containment zone following a high prevalence of coronavirus infection in the neighbourhood.
Muslims in the area questioned, according to local sources, why the police had barricaded their areas while the Hindu areas had not been cordoned off — much as the situation in the Hindu localities did not merit declaring them as hotspots.
Soon, mobs emerged from the ghetto, breaking free of the police barricades and marched towards non-barricaded neighbourhoods.
“When police tried to take the COVID-19 infected people belonging to a particular community in Malda (Harishchandrapur) and in Hooghly (Chandannagar), they vehemently opposed such action. At the same time, the houses of the Hindus, their shops, temples were demolished”, said BJP state president Dilip Ghosh had written in a tweet on 11 May.
There is now massive police deployment in the area. Rapid Action Force (RAF) is conducting ‘peace’ marches after the Muslims in Telinipara hurled crude bombs, vandalised shops and gutted vehicles in fire.
Police have detained 37 people for rioting; they include people from both the communities.
On Monday, 11 May, Home Secretary of West Bengal, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, had said via two tweets:
However, hours after these tweets, Telinipara erupted again.
The West Bengal Police and state administration are yet to react to the fresh round of violence that ensued in the area with statements.