EC Cuts Short Campaigning In Kolkata After BJP-TMC Clash; Mamata Calls It A 'Gift' For BJP
Citing “an atmosphere of fear and hatred” and “widely prevalent fear psychosis” in the polling areas, the Election Commission for the first time in the history of election has invoked Article 324 to cut short the campaigning in nine West Bengal Constituencies, a day before its scheduled deadline which will now kick in at 10 pm on May 16 (Thursday) . The decision came in the aftermath of several clashes between TMC and BJP workers that engulfed the entire state. The BJP welcomed the decision of the watchdog, whereas the TMC Chief Mamata Banerjee called it “undemocratic” and a “gift for BJP”.
The north part of the city was engulfed by violence after Amit Shah’s rally passing by the Calcutta University Campus (college street) were shown black flags by students of Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP). The students shouted slogans against the rally asking Amit Shah to “go back”. The BJP workers present in the rally hit back by chanting “Jai Shri Ram”. Gradually, the trade of slogans morphed into vandalisation, fist fights, hurling of stones, sticks, and bricks. The cops providing security to Amit Shah had to fold their hands to appeal both sides to maintain peace. Later, the main gate of the university was closed.
Social media users circulated videos of violence:
— SHUBHAM SHARMA (@ShubhamWithIYC) May 15, 2019
— SHUBHAM SHARMA (@ShubhamWithIYC) May 14, 2019
What followed was violence in another college, a bust of Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar who was a key figure in the Bengal renaissance was ransacked in the Vidyasagar College on Bidhan Sarani Street during the clash. The Telegraph reported that the bust was broken by BJP supporters. The hostel premises of the colleges were vandalised and the wooden doors of the colleges were forced open. Two bikes parked outside the college premises were also set ablaze. The police resorted to lathi charge to control the situation. As of now, the cops have detained more than 100 protesters involved in the clash. Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajesh Kumar, mentioned that strong action would be taken against those responsible for the incident.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was an educationist. He changed the Bengla alphabet, Was a scholar and social reformer who fought for the Widow Remarriage Act and women's education.
No wonder why RSS cultured goons broke #Vidyasagar bust pic.twitter.com/LEBT8WemWd
— SHUBHAM SHARMA (@ShubhamWithIYC) May 15, 2019
Party workers of both the side blamed each other for the clashes. TMC supremo, Mamata Banerjee later in the night visited the Vidyasagar college. Expressing discontent, she asked Amit Shah whether he understands the heritage of Calcutta University and all the famous personalities who had studied here. She called the incident first of its kind and accused BJP of bringing goons from Rajasthan and Bihar to create riots in her peace-loving city.
BJP supporters tailing Amit Shah's vehicle broke into & ransacked the offices of Vidyasagar College, destroying a bust of Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar. Some women students alleged that the intruders tugged at their dupattas and even tried to touch them.
— The Telegraph (@ttindia) May 15, 2019
Condemning the vandalisation of the bust of Vidayasagar, Mamata Banerjee along with other TMC members have changed their Twitter profile picture to Vidyasagar’s image. TMC Spokesperson, Derek O’Brien called Amit Shah “ignorant” and asked him to try his luck somewhere else. Brien while accusing BJP of ransacking the bust, further said that the people of Bengal would provide a clear answer when the Ballot boxes open up.
Amit Shah blamed TMC for resorting to violence to defeat the BJP. He labelled the incident as “a black chapter in democracy”. Amit Shah accused TMC of stone pelting and arson incidents during his rally. He further said that TMC is frustrated fearing that BJP would win a maximum number of seats in West Bengal. He also speculated that the clash was a part of a larger conspiracy of TMC.
PM Narendra Modi, who is to address people in the state, taking cognisance of the incident mentioned that democracy has been strangled in the state. He said people of Bengal are upset with the state government’s actions and its atrocities.
The aftermath of the incident
The BJP has called for a protest in the national capital. The BJP on its official Twitter handle has called the citizens to join the protests “against the cowardly attack on BJP National President’s roadshow in Kolkata”. Several protesters were seen holding placards saying “Save Democracy Save Bengal”. BJP leaders- Harsh Vardhan, Jitendra Singh, and Vijay Goel were present in the protest with fingers on their lips representing a peace protest.
Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holds protest against violence in BJP President Amit Shah's roadshow in Kolkata, West Bengal yesterday. Union Ministers Harsh Vardhan, Jitendra Singh and Vijay Goel also present pic.twitter.com/pIK872wgYF
— ANI (@ANI) May 15, 2019
TMC’s student wing registered its protest against the vandalisation of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s statue. Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M) blamed the BJP party for vandalizing the statue. He on his Twitter wrote:
Not about just a statue, but a systematic attack on Bengal. One of the biggest symbols of the Bengal renaissance is what BJP-RSS have attacked. These obscurantists have always opposed Vidyasagar’s ideas.
But Bengal will not succumb. At College Square now https://t.co/IScPyuzW1G
— Sitaram Yechury (@SitaramYechury) May 15, 2019