Amidst the lockdown, mob violence and arson were reported at Telinipara in Hooghly district, West Bengal, on Tuesday (May 12), leaving four police personnel and seven local people injured and several shops gutted. Reports said many shops were ransacked too.
According to an officer in the Chandannagar Police Commissionerate, two groups clashed and hurled bombs at each other and set shops ablaze. The police said the groups had clashed earlier too near a jute mill, on Sunday night.
“Policemen were also injured when they tried to control the situation. We have so far arrested 54 people in connection with the clash,” the police officer said adding that the situation was now under control.
The trouble erupted in Telinipara on Sunday after a group of people COVID containment locality crossing over to another to use public toilets. One group called the other ‘corona’, igniting the fight.
Following the clashes, the district administration suspended internet services in several areas of the district from Tuesday midnight. Hooghly district magistrate Y Ratnakara Rao said the services will remain suspended till May 17 to prevent circulation of fake news and videos.
Though no fresh incident of violence was reported on Wednesday, the situation is tense in many areas of the district.
In another incident at Baruipur area of South 24 Parganas district, a sub-inspector and four civic volunteers were beaten up by a mob when they asked people who had gathered near a tea stall to maintain social distancing. The mob also damaged a police vehicle. Eighteen people have been arrested for attacking police personnel, they said.
Policemen seeking to maintain social distancing were also attacked at Tikiapara in Howrah district last month.
BJP MP Locket Chatterjee rushed to the Raj Bhavan after she was denied entry to the troubled areas after the police cited Section 144.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, after meeting a group of BJP leaders including Locket Chatterjee, Arjun Singh, and Mukul Roy at the Raj Bhawan, expressed ‘serious concern’ over the incidents.’
Dhankhar called upon the people to observe utmost restraint and maintain communal harmony at all costs, a statement released by the governor’s office read. He urged the police and the administration to be extremely watchful so that the situation was contained.
“We informed the governor of the situation at Telinipara and similar incidents in Malda. People are already under stress in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Now they and their properties are attacked by a certain group,” Hooghly MP Locket Chatterjee said.
“Police is not taking action against the hooligans at the behest of local TMC leaders. However, they are stopping elected representatives from visiting the affected people,” she alleged while talking to reporters after meeting the governor.
BJP MP Khagen Murmu was not allowed by police to visit a village of Harishchandrapur in Malda district on Tuesday. On Sunday, people of two villages of Harishchandrapur had clashed after residents of one erected barricades to seal the locality saying people tested positive for coronavirus in the other.
BJP leader Mukul Roy, who was a member of the delegation that met the governor, said Dhankhar was also apprised of the attack on police at Baruipur which, he alleged, showed how hooligans sheltered by the ruling party are creating lawlessness in the state. “This government has been engaged in vote bank politics and not performing its administrative role properly. For this very reason, they shunted out an efficient bureaucrat like Vivek Kumar to hide the failure of the chief minister who looks after the health department,” Roy claimed.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on the other hand, lashed out at the saffron party for allegedly instigating communal clashes in the state amid the lockdown.
Days after a row over the states COVID-19 data, Health Secretary Vivek Kumar was on Tuesday shifted to the environment department. Roy alleged that the TMC government is hiding COVID-19 figures and not keen on bringing back migrant labourers who are stranded outside the state because of the lockdown.
(With inputs from PTI)