July 5th, 2017
Communal violence has broken out in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district over an “objectionable” Facebook post.
According to The Indian Express, trouble started after a Grade 10 student posted a derogatory meme on prophet Muhammad on Monday morning. The violence broke out on Tuesday, 4 July, and an escalation of the same prompted the centre to rush 300 paramilitary personnel to aid the local administration in maintaining law and order.
The clashes are overtly communal in nature, pitting members of the Hindu and Muslim communities of Baduria, North 24 Parganas against each other.
Local train services and internet connections have been disrupted while shops have been shut down and the streets have become deserted in the region. According to Hindustan Times, angry Muslim mobs set fire to shops and houses belonging to Hindus in Baduria, Swarupnagar and Taki blocks of the district. The car of the additional police superintendent of the district was also attacked.
As of 1 PM, 5 July, there was no official confirmation about any casualties during the clashes.
Besides the unrest, the violence triggered a spat between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi. Banerjee accused Tripathi of acting like “a BJP block president” and “threatening” her.
A Facebook post triggered the clashes
As reported by Firstpost, official sources in Delhi said the clashes were triggered over a Facebook post about a “holy site”. However, The Indian Express reports that the violence was triggered by a post on Prophet Muhammad; this, however, has not been confirmed by the state government. A young man was arrested relating to this, the police said on Tuesday (The Indian Express reported that this man was the boy whose post caused the unrest).
A violent mob put up road blockades at several places and attacked members of other community, besides destroying many shops, they said.
Shops were shut down in Baduria as tension prevailed there and spread to adjacent areas like Keosha market, Banshtala, Ramchandrapur and Tentulia, the police said.
Condemning the riots in a press conference, the Chief Minister said, “This is a serious issue, let me handle it seriously … We were awake last night (to control it).”
Besides condemnation for the violence, the state’s politicians indulged in a robust blame-game over the riots.
The Chief Minister blamed the BJP for having an “agenda”.“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.”
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya accused the state police of failing to control the situation. Vijayvargiya wrote a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh asking him intervene in the matter. He said, “More than 2,000 Muslims attacked Hindu families. Bombs went off at many places and information of Hindu sisters and daughters being raped has also been received. Local workers (of BJP) have said many facilities, including five BJP offices, were set on fire.”
The opposition Left Front and Congress demanded immediate deployment of the Army to control the situation. “We demand an all-party meeting an army deployment. The debate on phone call is unwarranted,” CPI(M) state secretary Suryakanta Mishra said, according to PTI.
On Tuesday afternoon, BJP state general secretary Debashree Chowdhury was reportedly prevented by police from entering the area. In protest, BJP workers started a roadblock at the district headquarters.
Union minister Babul Supriyo described the pieces of information coming from the areas as “dangerous facts” while State BJP secretary Sayantan Basu said there was a total collapse of law and order in Baduria, and called for the immediate deployment of central to protect Hindus there.
On Wednesday, the Union Home Ministry sought a report from the West Bengal government over communal clashes.
Spat between CM and Governor
The violence has also caused a rift between the state’s Chief Minister Banerjee and Governor Tripathi.
Banerjee accused Tripathi of acting like “a BJP block president” and “threatening” her. While reacting to her conversation with Tripathi over the violence, Banerjee said she felt so offended that “I once even thought of leaving (quitting as chief minister)”.
A Raj Bhavan statement quoted Tripathi as having said nothing happened during the talks over which Mamata should feel “insulted, threatened or humiliated”.
“The talks between the Hon’ble chief minister and the Hon’ble governor were confidential in nature and none is expected to disclose it,” a statement issued by Raj Bhavan in Kolkata said.