Basirhat Riots, West Bengal: What Has Happened So Far
Image Credit: Top News, IB Times

Basirhat Riots, West Bengal: What Has Happened So Far

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July 4: Communal clashes broke out in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district over an objectionable post on Facebook, prompting the state government to rush 400 Border Security Force (BSF) paramilitary troops to assist the police in controlling the situation.

The violence between two communities at Baduria, Basirhat sub-division, started on the night on July 4, was triggered by a derogatory post on Prophet Muhammad by a teenage boy on his Facebook wall.

People put up road blockades at several places and attacked members of other community, besides destroying many shops, the police said.

Internet services were also shut down in Baduria as tension prevailed there and spread to adjacent areas like Keosha market, Banshtala, Ramchandrapur and Tentulia.

On the other hand, BJP general secretary Debasree Chowdhury was stopped by police on the way to Baduria after which party workers led by him held a demonstration at district headquarter Barasat, demanding the arrest of the rioters.

Besides condemnation for the violence, the state’s politicians indulged in a robust blame-game over the riots. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blamed the BJP for having an “agenda”, whereas the BJP accused her of brewing anti-social elements in the state.

“They have formed a ‘Gau Raksha group’ to kill people. A ‘hate group’ was formed to foment riots. Riots are taking place in the name of Hindu Samhati,” she said.

July 5: Though the Class X student was arrested by Wednesday, angry mobs vandalised shops and demonstrated outside Baduria police station. The clashes affected local train services in Basirhat and also in Sealdah-Bangaon section as people squatted on the tracks at Duttapukur and Ashokenagar stations.

Union Home Ministry sought a report from the West Bengal government over communal clashes.

With the police and BSF personnel putting up at school buildings, educational institutions remained off-limits for students. The BSF personnel cleared roads after removing the blockades put up by a mob. Angry mobs burnt vehicles and set public property on fire, as reported by The Financial Express. The army was deployed in the riot-hit district, curfew imposed.

Section 144 was imposed in Basirhat following violent protests over a social media post, as reported by ANI.

The BJP demanded that President’s rule be imposed in West Bengal.

The violence also caused a rift between CM Banerjee and Governor Tripathi. She accused Tripathi of acting like “a BJP block president” and “threatening” her. A Raj Bhavan statement quoted Tripathi as having said nothing happened during the talks over which Mamata should feel “insulted, threatened or humiliated”.

CM Banerjee said that she will form a ‘Shanti Vahini’ in 15 days with youth, peaceful citizens in association with local police stations. She also said that her government has decided to form peacekeeping forces across the state involving local people and assisted by the state administration and the police.

Meanwhile, the CPI (M) alleged the BJP and the ruling TMC were polarising the people and there was an increasing sense of lawlessness in the state.

Fake news of a Hindu woman being lynched by a Muslim mob erupted on social media. ABP News debunked it and it turned out that the woman was Muslim and the attack took place because the victim was accused of baby snatching.

July 6: 45-year-old, Kartik Ghosh, died on Thursday at RG Kar Hospital, Kolkata, after being stabbed with a sharp object on the head on Wednesday evening. Heavy security was deployed outside the hospital. Ghosh’s son said that his father had no political affiliation, even as the BJP claimed that he was an active party worker.

Section 144 remained imposed in all affected areas including Basirhat and Baduria, while internet services remained suspended in North 24 Parganas.

Social media played a crucial role in spreading hate among members of the Hindu and Muslim communities. Posted on Twitter, an image claimed that the parents of the Baduria boy behind the morphed Prophet Muhammed image were attacked. However, the picture was of an incident in Bangladesh.

Director General of Police Surajit Kar Purakayasta has requested people to refrain from spreading hatred. “Those spreading rumours and indulging in hate posts and false propaganda shall not be spared. Please respect the law of the land. Malicious efforts to create divides and attempts to take law in own hands will be sternly dealt with. Please don’t heed rumour,” as per the report.

Fresh violence was reported in Basirhat following the imposition of section 144. Protesters blocked the road and the police resorted to using tear gas.

The core of the communal flare-up was Rudrapur – part of Baduria Assembly constituency, and close to Bangladesh. The area has recently seen the Bharatiya Janata Party becoming quite active.

July 7: On Friday, delegations of various political parties were stopped by the police from visiting the riot-hit areas in Basirhat, around 80 kms from Kolkata. Internet services were also suspended as the region remained on an edge.

BJP slammed West Bengal CM, claiming that Section 144 was imposed only against Hindus as police are not investigating cases against Muslims. The Trinamool Congress accused the BJP-led Central government of indulging in the “dirty trick of polarisation” because of its “inability” to take the TMC on in West Bengal on social and economic development.

CNN News 18 reported that 50 BJP leaders were arrested in Basirhat area, including Roopa Ganguly.

Locals chose to stay indoors with shops, markets, schools remaining closed and the transport system badly hit.

Ignoring CM Banerjee’s appeal to all parties not to visit the areas to avoid further trouble, teams of the Left, Congress and BJP attempted to do so. However, police stopped them from entering.

July 8: CM Banerjee blamed the BJP)for stirring up unrest across the state. Hours later, workers of the party and her own Trinamool Congress party clashed in North Dinajpur district

CM Banerjee insisted that her government will press for a judicial inquiry into incidents of communal violence in North 24 Parganas. As reported by The Indian Express, earlier on Saturday, a BJP central team comprising party MPs Meenakshi Lekhi, Om Mathur and Satyapal Singh was prevented by the police from visiting the riot-hit Basirhat and were subsequently detained following a heated exchange with the police.

After the release of BJP delegation from the custody of Kolkata Police, Lekhi said that the state party unit would conduct a protest march against the growing communal tension, adding illegal elements of the society are roaming freely and police have no guts to arrest them.

On Saturday that shops had reopened and vehicles were seen plying in violence-hit areas.

The Kolkata police arrested a person for sharing an image from a Bhojpuri film and passing it off as an incident that took place in riot-hit North 24 Parganas. Among those who shared the image, targeting the West Bengal government, on social media was Vijeta Malik, an official of the BJP’s Haryana unit.

Meanwhile, the state police put out a series of tweets, urging people to not be influenced by fake messages doing rounds on social media.

July 9: A fake image was shared by a BJP spokesperson, Nupur Sharma, of West Bengal riots which actually pertained to 2002 Gujarat riots. The party’s national head of Informational Technology Amit Malviya also reposted the image.

Amidst the tension, MLA Raja Singh uploaded a hate message on Facebook, inciting the Hindus of the state against the Muslims by asking them to take the steps taken during 2002 Gujarat riots.

July 10: The Indian Express reported that Muslims came together to help their Hindu neighbours get back on their feet. Amidst the violence, this came with a sense of hope.

The situation calmed in Baduria and adjacent areas of North 24 Parganas, however, internet services remained suspended at Baduria, Swarupnagar, Deganga and Basirhat.

There have been no reports of any untoward incident from anywhere in the district, police said.

A non-bailable case was filed against Nupur Sharma for sharing the fake image of West Bengal riots.

July 11: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) announced that they will hold a ‘sant sammelan’ in Kolkata on July 13 to discuss communal clashes in West Bengal. Representatives of maths, temples, RSS, Arya Samaj, Hindu outfits, Sikhs, Jains apart from VHP functionaries have been invited for the meet, which is scheduled to be held at Mahajati Sadan, reported The Indian Express.

Today, it’s been a week since the communal clashes started in West Bengal

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Editor : Pooja Chaudhuri