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BJP workers clash with police in Kolkata, several injured

LiveMint logoLiveMint 25-05-2017 Arkamoy Dutta Majumdar

Kolkata: For the second time in four days, central Kolkata on Thursday wore the look of troubled Srinagar as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters clashed with the police when stopped in their march to Lalbazar, the Kolkata Police headquarters.

The BJP took out rallies from different parts of Kolkata to protest against the administration starting criminal cases against its leaders, which the party says are politically motivated, and to demand the arrest of a Muslim preacher who was recently ousted as imam of the Tipu Sultan mosque in Kolkata.

After Monday’s clashes with supporters of Left parties, the police were more restrained on Thursday while dealing with hostile BJP supporters. Even so, they had to baton charge protestors and at least 15 of them sustained injuries and were taken to hospital. The protestors vandalised two police vehicles.

Three rallies led by prominent BJP leaders were to converge at Lalbazar, but as is the norm, the police stopped them far from their destination with barricades. Protestors turned violent as they tried to trample down the barricades. The police alleged that the protestors started to throw stones and hurled a bomb across a barricade. The BJP denied the allegation.

In the skirmish that followed, the police fired water canons and tear gas shells before baton-charging protestors. Two key officers of the Kolkata Police who were charged with dealing with the situation on the ground said the police had strict instruction to use minimum force and to make sure no journalist was attacked.

The police charged at the protestors only when they were attacked, these officers said, asking not to be named. A television channel showed a journalist rescuing a policeman from being assaulted by protestors.

Despite the police being cautious not to repeat Monday’s beating up of journalists, a few were again attacked by the police on Thursday. Earlier in the day, the police distributed neon-colour jackets among journalists so that they could be easily identified in the melee.

Several top BJP leaders such as Dilip Ghosh, the state president for West Bengal, national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, former state president Rahul Sinha and Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly, who led the rallies, were arrested.

The BJP has decided to lodge a complaint with the governor against alleged police excesses.

Referring to the rallies this week, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said a bunch of miscreants and the misguided were fighting to establish themselves as the key opposition party in West Bengal and in the process innocent police personnel were getting beaten up.

The police in Kolkata said 141 protestors were arrested on Thursday and that at least 20 police personnel sustained injuries in the skirmishes.

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