KOLKATA: One party worker died as a protest rally organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s youth wing in West Bengal’s Siliguri on Monday turned violent, resulting in clash with police.
The BJP alleged the party worker, identified as Ulen Roy, was beaten to death during a baton charge.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh claimed the police rained baton ruthlessly on party workers.
“The protest march was organised by the youth wing of our party, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha. The police became aggressive without any provocation and resorted to lathicharge leading to the death of our one of the workers. He was taken to a local hospital where doctors declared him dead,” said Ghosh.
However, police claimed there was no lathicharge.
Denying the allegations, a police officer said, “Acts of violence were committed by the supporters of a political party during their protest in Siliguri on Monday. They resorted to arson and vandalism of government property. Police showed restraint and did not use baton or fire arms. Only water cannons and tear gas were used to disperse the crowd.”
He added the cause of the BJP worker’s death will be known after post mortem.
Talking to reporters later, Vijayvargiya demanded President’s rule in the state, claiming law and order in the state has collapsed.
Earlier, trouble broke out when thousands of BJP workers uprooted the barricades put up by the police and set them ablaze and pelted stones while heading towards the mini secretariat building in Siliguri.
Heavy police arrangements were made as the party had announced the programme a week ago and senior party leaders including Ghosh and Bengal observer Kailash Vijayvargiya arrived in Siliguri.
The BJP condemned the police action and demanded imposition of president's rule in West Bengal in view of "breakdown of law and order".
The party has called a 12-hour bandh in north Bengal on Tuesday.
BJP workers were seen fighting pitched battles with police after they were stopped from moving past barricades at two points near branch secretariat 'Uttarkanya' during the rally called to protest the TMC "misrule".
The BJYM, the youth with of the BJP, led by its chief and Lok Sabha member Tejaswi Surya, took out two protest marches claiming the state government had not fulfilled the promises made to the people of north Bengal and that the benefits of welfare schemes had failed to reach the common man.
Police used water cannons and burst tear gas shells to stop the protesters from marching to the secretariat and were pelted with stones.
Agitators also set fire to some bamboo barricades.
State BJP Dilip Ghosh, who led a rally to Fulbari Bazar, one of the two approach points to the secretariat building, said the government was "using coercion" as it was scared of the saffron party's rise in West Bengal.
A second rally, led by the party's national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and BJYM president Tejaswi Surya, broke the first two layers of the police cordon near Tinbatti more, about 1 km from Uttarkanya, but could not get past the third.
Police sprayed the protesters with coloured water.
According to BJP sources, Vijayvargiya and Surya had to be escorted to their vehicles by their security guards after the former fell ill.
Talking to reporters later, Vijayvargiya demanded president's rule in the state, claiming "law and order has collapsed".
"There is criminalisation of police in West Bengal. The way they carried out a brutal attack on peaceful protesters shows the state machinery has been politicised totally," the BJP's West Bengal minder alleged.
Tejaswi Surya alleged police hurled stones and were joined by "TMC goons" who threw crude bombs.
"This 'tanashahi' (dictatorship) cannot continue. We ask all democratic forces to join hands to dislodge this undemocratic, tyrant government."
BJYM state president Saumitra Khan said at least 50 protesters were injured and threatened to launch an agitation against "police atrocity" across the state.
Senior TMC MP Sougata Roy insisted police showed restraint by not resorting to firing despite serious provocation.
Roy alleged the BJP was repeatedly trying to create disturbance in the state in the name of democratic movements.
He said though it was unfortunate that many BJP workers were injured, the situation had gone out of control.
In October this year, similar clashes between police and BJP supporters took place during the 'March to Nabanna', the state secretariat in Howrah district.
Accusing the Police of being judgmental on incidents of unrest, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said that political neutrality is being thrown to the winds for "political hatchet work".
He was reacting to a tweet posted by the West Bengal Police saying that "serious acts of violence" were committed by the supporters of a political party during their protest programme in which they "resorted to arson, brick-batting, firing and vandalism of govt property.
"Am stunned and shocked at this judgmental stance @WBPolice.
With such a finding recorded and disseminated in public domain there can be no semblance of fair investigation @MamataOfficial!" the governor said in a tweet.
Describing the contents of the message of the police as "an alarming scenario", Dhankhar said he has flagged the issue to the state chief secretary (CS) and the director general of police.
"Political neutrality being thrown to winds for political hatchet work. Flagged issue to CS @MamataOfficial and DGP @WBPolice reminding- time to be conscientious and conscious of constitutional obligations."
Dhankhar said that he has urged them to ensure political neutrality of administration and police for the sake of democracy.
A BJP delegation called on the governor and demanded a probe into the death of a party worker by a high court judge, senior leader Rahul Sinha said.
In another tweet, Dhankhar said that BJP leaders submitted a representation to him regarding alleged police atrocities at Siliguri leading to the death of a BJP worker.
(With PTI Inputs)