A demonstration march organised by the BJP’s Yuva Morcha to the West Bengal secretariart, Nabanna, in Kolkata turned violent on Thursday (October 8) with party activists clashing with the police.
The Yuva Morcha activists hurled bombs and stones at the the police. They also set tyres on fire. The police used water cannons and tear gas to control the crowd. In some places, they also resorted to lathicharge. They also set up barricades at several places, including Hastings and Central Avenue, to stop the protesters.
Police also claimed to have recovered a “loaded pistol” from a BJP worker Balbinder Singh at G T Road who was part of a procession from Howrah Maidan led by newly-appointed BJYM national president Tejasvi Surya.
Singh, a resident of Bhatpara in North 24 Parganas district, was arrested for carrying the firearm.
The BJP, however, claimed some miscreants of the ruling Trinamool Congress had infiltrated into their peaceful protest march brought out from four different areas of Howrah and Kolkata, and it was they who tried to create disturbances.
“No BJP workers came with arms or bombs. It’s the TMC miscreants who had entered into the processions to create violence and chaos,” said senior state BJP leader and MP Locket Chatterjee.
The march to lay a siege on the state secretariat Nabanna was called by the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha in protest against seven issues ranging from increase in political violence to growing unemployment.
The Yuva Morcha took the march with a seven-point charter of demands. It said it wanted to, among other things, highlight the worsening law and order situation in the state.
Several BJP activists, including the party’s state vice-president Raju Banerjee, were injured in the clashes.
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Locket Chatterjee, Kailash Vijayvargiya and a few other leaders started a sit-in-demonstration on the road at Hastings alleging police highhandedness as BJP state vice-president Raju Banerjee fell ill after he was hit by a cannon jet.
Vijayvargiya said the sacrifice of party functionary Manish Shukla would not go in vein. Shuka was a BJP councillor, who was shot dead on October 4 by bike-borne assailants.
Member of Parliament Tejasvi Surya, the newly appointed chief of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), also took part in the march that was headed to the office of the chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Before the commencement of the march, Surya, in a brief address to party supporters in Howrah said, “The youth of India are with you. You must raise your voice to end the misrule of Mamata Banerjee.” He accused the TMC government of failing to fulfil the aspirations of youth alleging there was no job in the states forcing people to migrate to other states.
Though BJP workers clashed with the police, most senior leaders, including state president Dilip Ghosh, Mukul Roy, and Tejasvi Surya, left the processions without putting up much resistance when their march were halted.
The protesters marched towards the state secretariat from four locations without adhering to the COVID guidelines that requires social distancing to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The assembly was also in violation of the ban imposed by the state government on gathering of people in large numbers.
At least four policemen were injured in the brick pelting by BJP workers, police claimed.
The state government had denied permission to the march in view of the COVID pandemic. It had said no more than 100 people can gather peacefully.
The secretariat will remain closed on Thursday and Friday to sanitise the premises. The BJP, however, said Nabanna was closed as the chief minister feared the party’s protest march.
“Didi has shut down Nabanna. This is fine as Nabanna will shut down anyway in a few months,” Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said on Wednesday, reported NDTV.
The Yuva Morcha demonstration comes amid the BJP’s efforts to make more inroads into the state ahead of the Assembly elections. The party had won 18 of the 45 Lok Sabha seats in the parliamentary elections held last year.