KOLKATA: Women with brooms, sticks, sickles and iron rods in their hands have taken the lead in violence and vandalism in several parts of Basirhat in West Bengal, which is reeling under communal violence since Monday.
While the women were at the forefront in vandalising and setting fire to several Trinamool Congress party offices in Basirhat, ransacking the house of local MLA Dipendu Biswas and beating him up on Thursday; they continued the violent streak on Friday by damaging a few shops near the railway station on Friday. After returning from Europe on Wednesday, Biswas had allegedly led police to arrest a dozen youth of a particular community on Thursday.
While riot epicentre Baduria and neighbouring areas have returned to normalcy, Basirhat, some 15 km away from Baduria, continues to simmer with rage against perceived bias by police and administration. It is one of the few Hindu-dominated areas in a border subdivision which has 70% Muslim population.
“When was the police when our houses were vandalised and shops looted? Now, when we are retaliating, police are arresting our youth,” said Shanti Mondal (name changed), a woman vigilante in Basirhat. Some 51 arrests were made on Wednesday and Thursday and fresh arrests were made on Friday.
One person has died and 12 have been injured in the violence that erupted after a derogatory meme on Prophet Mohammad got circulated in the social media. The minor accused has been arrested but angry mobs demanded that he be hanged to death for blasphemy.
“Women of our religion have taken the lead here in Basirhat as we are in minority and every hand counts,” said another vigilante Rakhi Chowdhury (name changed).
BJP leaders detained
Leaders of Bengal’s opposition parties including the Left Front, Congress and BJP were prevented from visiting strife-torn areas of Basirhat subdivision of North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal on Friday.
While the BJP delegation led by Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly was stopped at Michaelnagar near Kolkata, the Left Front delegation led by Mohammad Salim was stopped at Ashoknagar near Habra, 37 km north of Basirhat. A Congress delegation led by Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee chief Adhir Ranjan Choudhury was stopped at district headquarters Barasat, 44 km from Basirhat.
The BJP delegation was detained for a few hours and then released. Speaking at a press conference, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh alleged that Trinamool Congress workers verbally abused BJP leaders including Roopa Ganguly and Locket Chatterjee inside the police station.
Claiming the hand of terror outfit Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) behind the Basirhat riots, the BJP leader said that a party delegation will meet Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi on Saturday and submit a memorandum demanding President’s rule in West Bengal.
Speaking to media after being released from detention, Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly said: “It is a matter of shame for West Bengal government that every other day they have to call central forces. When Didi is seeing that things are returning to normal in Baduria due to presence of central forces, she now wants to form peace committees so that TMC people can command over everybody through these committees. She is not looking for peace.”