KOLKATA: Hundreds of Ram Navami rallies, including some armed rallies, were taken out by BJP and VHP in various parts of West Bengal Saturday drawing sharp criticisim from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Ram Navami rallies were taken out in West Midnapore, Purulia, Jhargram, Bankura, Howrah, Kolkata and in North and South 24 Parganas districts among others, officials said.
At Kharagpur in West Midnapore, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh took out Ram Navami rallies and were seen displaying swords and maces.
"Ram Navami rallies are a part of our tradition. We are carrying arms to protect ourselves. It has nothing to do with elections. If TMC has a problem with armed rallies then they should change their thought process," Ghosh said when asked why he took out rallies with swords and maces.
Banerjee while addressing a rally at Siliguri criticised BJP for taking out armed rallies and said they were trying to "sell religion" for political advantage. She also charged BJP for using religion as a tool to mislead the people.
Kolkata Police said that no political, apolitical, religious organisations are allowed to carry out bike rallies in the city.
The BJP was denied permission to take out bike rallies across Kolkata on the occasion of Ram Navami. However, normal rallies by the party and VHP were allowed to be taken out.
The West Bengal Police too denied permission for carrying arms by the participants in the Ram Navami rallies.
In some places there were scuffles between police officials and BJP workers after they were stopped from taking out bike rallies.
The Vishva Hindu Parishad, which planned as many as 700 rallies in the state on the occasion of Ram Navami, took out several in South Bengal.
The organisation said that no arms would be carried in rallies held by it this year.
"We have received permission for rallies. We will abide by the direction of the police and no one will carry arms during Ram Navami rallies conducted by us," VHP organisational general secretary (eastern region) Sachindranath Sinha said.