Fragile Peace Returns To West Bengal’s Basirhat

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Kolkata: As security forces marched through troubled areas of West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district to keep the fragile peace in Basirhat, the focus shifted to state capital Kolkata, 100 km away, where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launched an offensive against the BJP, blaming it for the violence. The town was relatively calm since Thursday morning, but erupted again on Friday after police used batons on angry crowds who alleged that cops were detaining only Hindu men since the clash began. The police said there were no incidents of violence on Saturday.

Mamata has announced a judicial inquiry into the communal clashes in the district that has also set her on a collision course with Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi who declared he could not be a mute spectator.

“It is complete breakdown of federal structure,” the Chief Minister said attacking the Centre. Mamata has blamed the BJP, its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other fringe groups for the violence and accused senior leaders of provocative statements.

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She suggested that the trouble was started in the district bordering Bangladesh by outsiders. “Who is in charge of border security, the Centre or the state? Once again I am saying, it is the ploy of the BJP to disturb the peace of the state,” she said.

Mamata Banerjee said the BJP-led government in New Delhi was trying to impose President’s Rule in Bengal. “The Centre is not cooperating with us. BJP’s vendetta politics has been exposed,” she said.

Union Minister Piyush Goyal hit back, accusing Mamata of letting the situation spin out of control to “appease another community for political reasons”. Local residents had alleged that Trinamool Congress legislator Dipendu Biswas was present during the detentions of Hindus and pointed out their homes to the police to be searched.

A team of three BJP lawmakers – Meenakshi Lekhi, Om Mathur and Satyapal Singh – were detained briefly when they arrived in Kolkata to visit Basirhat. This was the second attempt by BJP leaders to visit the riot-hit locations.

Leaders from the Congress and Left have also been prevented from reaching the district.
The BJP also went to Kolkata’s Raj Bhavan to ask Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi to impose President’s Rule. “We demand that the Centre immediately intervene,” President of BJP’s Bengal unit Dilip Ghosh told reporters on Friday.

Kolkata Police have arrested a person for sharing an image from a Bhojpuri film and passing it off as one from Basirhat. The image had been widely shared on social media including by BJP leaders to target the West Bengal government.

Violence began on Monday in Baduria, about 20 km from Basirhat, and spread to other towns in North 24 Parganas district after a Facebook post by a 17-year-old. The teen was arrested and has been sent to jail.