As the BJP and TMC supporters on Tuesday fought pitched battles on the streets of Kolkata during a massive roadshow by Amit Shah, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed the violence was triggered by goons the BJP brought from outside Bengal.
Amit Shah escaped unhurt but was forced to cut short the jamboree and had to be escorted to safety by police.
The violence erupted as Shah’s convoy was attacked with stones by alleged TMC supporters from inside the hostel of Vidyasagar College, triggering a clash between supporters of the two parties, officials said.
In response, the rallyists clashed with students holding “Amit Shah Go Back” posters.
Several motorcycles parked outside were vandalised and set ablaze. Shards of broken glass littered the lobby of the college where a bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, a noted philosopher and a key figure of Bengal Renaissance, was smashed to smithereens. Police personnel were seen trying to douse the fire with buckets filled with water.
Contingents of Kolkata Police deployed for the roadshow swung into action and were seen chasing away the warring groups. Several people were also arrested for violence.
Following the riots, Mamata Banerjee questioned, “What does Amit Shah think of himself? Is he above everything? Is he God that no one can protest against him?”
TMC leader Derek O’Brien tweeted: “Desperate BJP goons from outside Bengal smash a statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar inside the college. Violent mob of BJP ‘outsiders’ in presence of Pukeworthy Shah. How little you know about Bengal, its rich history, its culture. Bengal will never forgive for what you did today.”
Amit Shah has called it an attempt to “strangulate democracy”.
“There was an attempt by TMC hooligans to attack me. Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal chief minister) tried to provoke violence. But I am safe,” Shah told a Hindi TV news channel.
Shah said while clashes erupted police remained a mute spectator.
He said he was told by police that the permission for the roadshow ended near the college and that he will be taken to the ancestral home of Swami Vivekananda on Bidhan Sarani.
“They (police) deviated from the planned route and took a way where there were traffic jams. I was not allowed to reach Swami Vivekananda’s house to pay tributes and I am saddened by it,” Shah claimed.
Hitting back, Mamata called Shah a “goonda”.
“If you lay your hands on Vidyasagar, what will I call you other than a goonda,” she told a rally in Behala in the city.
“I hate your ideology, I hate your ways,” she said and announced a protest rally on Thursday against the vandalisation of the bust of Vidyasagar.
Earlier on Tuesday, there was a scuffle when a group shouted slogans against Shah outside the Calcutta University campus and showed him black flags. Police, however, swiftly brought the situation under control.
Before the clashing mobs took over the streets of central Kolkata, Shah led a saffron surge in parts of the city as chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram, Jai Jai Shri Ram’ alternated with a frenzied chorus of ‘Modi! Modi!’.
On Monday, Shah was refused permission for a rally in Jadavpur. The BJP has repeatedly accused the TMC of the numerous incidents of violence against its party workers and leaders.