DURGAPUR, 20 JUNE: Police are concerned about the unfettered display of traditional weaponry at political rallies in Burdwan, where chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee arrives today for a number of public meetings.
The Adivasi Adhikar Mancha, a forum for tribal rights, organised a rally in the bordering villages of Kanksa and Ausgram early in the day, in which locals displayed
bows and arrows, spears, and tangis. The procession was meant to commemorate the death of Madan Soren — a CPI-M leader killed in Galsi last week.
Miss Banerjee, — who has alleged that the Marxists and Maoists are in a nexus aimed at taking her life ~ will make Durgapur her base for the next two days, with her public meetings scheduled in Burdwan and Bankura.
A number of senior CPI-M leaders were also a part of the rally that the Adivasi Adhikar Mancha organised. They included Mr Alok Bhattacharya, the party’s Kanksa zonal secretary. The police now plan to register a case against him, with Mr Biswajit Mukherjee, OC, Kanksa PS, saying: "The unlawful display of firearms were carried out under his leadership."
Mr Bhattacharya countered: "The tribals have the right to carry their traditional arms and weapons wherever they may wish. There is no harm in it."
But the district magistrate of Burdwan, Mr Onkar S Meena, disputed this view. He said, "There&’s a strong prohibition against displaying or carrying arms of any type, other than at certain social or religious gatherings. The law doesn’t permit the tribals or anyone else to wave arms for political motives." Yet, there were brazen displays of spears, bows and arrows at rallies in Shaktigarh and Ausgram earlier in the month as well, when nominations were filed on 3 June.
"We were flooded with calls from fear-stricken locals who wanted to know whether travelling in these areas was safe or not. The rules do not permit any organisation to carry arms in a political procession. So, we have made it clear to the community that people can’t carry arms at will,” said a senior intelligence official with the district police.
Social observers have approved of this decision. “We have just had the elections and the situation here is still volatile. So, disallowing the weapons is justified, since it helps prevent unnecessary fears and cuts out the risk of trouble,” said Mr Somnath Roy, a social observer.