Kolkata: Six days after chief minister Mamata Banerjee threatened action against public display of arms in illegal religious processions, Chitpore police on Wednesday arrested six persons on charge of displaying dangerous weapons during a rally to celebrate Hanuman Jayanti. Police booked them under non-bailable sections 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race) and the 25 (1A) of the Arms Act. A Sealdah court sent them to judicial custody for a week.
According to police, this procession started from the Hanuman Mandir close to Tallah Bridge. “There were around 250 men and women in the rally. It began around 6.15pm and reached the Tallah bridge when the accused began displaying swords, choppers and knives. We identified the accused and picked them up in a nightlong operation,” said a senior investigating officer. The accused have been identified as Pintu Das alias Pinter Das, Sambhu Singh, Satyajit Biswas, Somnath Basu, Santu Singh and Amit Singh. Police said they had videographed the entire procession.
According to the cops, though the organisers had informed them about the rally, they didn’t take any permission to display weapons. “The accused are residents of Chitpore and Tallah areas,” said an officer.
State BJP has dubbed the arrests as “political victimization”. In a deputation to the governor, the party claimed this was infringement on people’s freedom to practice and propagate their own religion. BJP sources said those arrested would be provided legal help.
The arrests come on a day when painter and Trinamool Congress MP Jogen Chowdhury raised the issue of armed processions in Rajya Sabha. He said, “During Ram Navami celebrations in Bengal, what happened is unthinkable and undesirable. Young boys and girls were walking with arms and swords in the processions organized by the ruling party.” He added, “It is dangerous if such culture becomes a practice. It will bring unforeseen disaster to our society and country. Such a thing cannot be encouraged for the sake of politics and power. It should be stopped at once.” After the Ram Navami celebrations, over 8-10 FIRs were lodged by police on their own, the state police said.
The chief minister had earlier indicated that the administration was not against religious processisions. However, she chose to draw a wedge between those who sought permission from the police before and those who didn’t. Police said they will video-graph such processions in future.