A day after violent clashes during Ram Navami processions in the state left one person dead and several injured, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee issued a stern warning on Monday to the organisers of armed rallies.
“Did Lord Ram ever say that armed rallies with pistols and swords should be organised in his name? Did Lord Ram ever carry a sword?” asked a livid supremo of the Trinamool Congress, which too organised a few rallies in Kolkata, albeit unarmed.
“We have read in our scriptures that Ram fought against Ravan with a bow and arrow. Some hooligans are trying to give Lord Ram a bad name. Should we leave law and order in their hands? Will they run the administration now?” she thundered while addressing an administrative review meeting in the South 24 Parganas.
Though her government had imposed a ban on carrying weapons in public, several armed rallies were taken out by right-wing groups in various parts of the state.
Men, women and even minors were seen brandishing swords, tridents and other traditional weapons in processions at Birbhum, West Midnapore, Howrah and certain areas in Kolkata.
Reports say that a 50-year-old villager identified as SK Sajahan was killed during a clash between two groups in Purulia over a Ram Navami procession. Five police personnel were injured during the clash.
The police arrested 16 persons in connection with the violence.
Calling the death loss of a family member, Banerjee accused right-wing groups of hiring goons from outside to create communal disharmony in her state.
“The death of a person in Purulia is akin to the death of my own family member. Whether he was Muslim, Hindu, Sikh of Christian is immaterial. Why would they kill people? They are so afraid that they are hiring goons from outside. Bengal will not tolerate this,” she said.
A police outpost in Jagaddal in North 24-Parganas was ransacked during one such procession. The incident left several injured. Clashes were reported from Chinsurah in Hooghly district, too.
“Few mustans (goons) with pistols, swords, arms, cloths tied around their heads, are doing goondagiri on the roads. This is not Bengali culture. We worship Durga, Kali, Saraswati, Ganapati, Laxmi as well as Basanti. We observe all festivals with peace and harmony. We also celebrate Eid and Christmas,” Banerjee told the gathering.
“What we witnessed yesterday is the handiwork of one party,” she said in an apparent reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose state unit chief Dilip Ghosh led an armed rally in West Midnapore.
“They are importing a new religion (of violence) and dreaming of winning over the entire country. I am sorry to say this, I abhor them. I strongly condemn these actions,” she added.
Mamata said she has instructed all the SPs to take strong action and not spare any wrongdoer. She also warned the police not to collude with the wrongdoers.