KOLKATA: After Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee fears that the saffron brigade might use the occasions of Rath Yatra and Janmashtami to foment trouble in the state to increase communal polarisation ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The Chief Minister has ordered the state police to maintain strict vigil and make the necessary preventive detentions to stem any planned communal violence.
The step was taken after the BJP and VHP decided to hold more than 500 rallies across the state to celebrate Rath Yatra on July 14 and Janmashtami on September 2.
"Some people are trying to implement nefarious plans during Rath Yatra and Janmashtami festivals. The administration has to be careful. No one should be allowed to create communal tension that might lead to riots," the chief minister said during a recent administrative review meeting in Cooch Behar district, bordering Bangladesh in northern Bengal.
Communal violence during the celebration of Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti earlier this year claimed the lives of five persons in Asansol, Raniganj, Purulia and Kankinara across south Bengal. More than 50 people were arrested for fomenting trouble.
"We have been told to make preventive detentions of elements suspected of trying to foment trouble during Rath Yatra and Janmashtami. We will also keep strict vigil along the border with Jharkhand and Bihar, from where miscreants had come to the state to foment trouble during the Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti violence," a top police official said.
The state Crime Investigation Department (CID) has also issued a circular to police officials asking them to book individuals responsible for 'subversive and communally provocative' posts under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
"The Social Media Monitoring Cell of CID comes across large numbers of subversive and communal provocative posts on social media every day. The significant among these are shared with field information for registration of cases, arrests and quick removal. Simultaneously, CID takes it up with service providers for removal. In this regard, at times there is violation of criminal laws. It is suggested that cases should be registered under Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), and 505(2) (disseminating defamatory content on social network) of IPC. Simultaneously, preventive action should be initiated under Section 108 (disseminating seditious matters) of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)," the circular accessed by The Sunday Standard read.
The move gains significance as several incidents of communal violence over the past two years have been found to have been fuelled by communally inciting posts.
2018 Ram Navami/Hanuman Jayanti riots: Five people died and scores were injured in communal violence in Asansol, Raniganj, Purulia and Kankinara across south Bengal in March this year during Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti processions led by Hindutva outfits.
2017 Basirhat riots: A derogatory meme on Prophet Mohammad made by a minor in Rudrapur town in North 24 Parganas causes communal clashes in Baduria and Basirhat towns near Rudrapur, close to the India-Bangladesh border. At least one person died, scores were injured and a large number of properties damaged and gutted. The accused was kept in police custody after angry mobs burned down his residence. Internet services were suspended for a week across the district.
2016 Dhulagarh riots: Over 100 houses and shops of members of two communities were gutted and scores were rendered homeless after communal violence erupted during Milad-un-Nabi (Prophet Mohammad's birth anniversary) celebrations in Dhulagarh industrial town in Howrah district on December 13, 2016. Journalists were booked for reporting the riot, with allegations of inciting communal hatred through their reportage. Some 58 people were arrested for rioting.
2016 Durga Puja/Muharram riots: Communal clashes erupted in six districts of West Bengal over Durga Puja immersion and Muharram procession, leading to gutting of properties and scores of injuries. Curfew was imposed in several affected areas and several people detained.