Violence erupted in Kaliachak on January 3 after Muslim activists gathered to protest against alleged blasphemous comments by a right-wing leader in Uttar Pradesh
Malda: Three BJP parliamentarians sent by party chief Amit Shah on a "fact-finding" mission to West Bengal's Malda, which was hit by mob-violence last week, were stopped at the railway station and forced to take a train back to Kolkata on Monday. The same evening, CPM leader Mohammed Salim and his team, who were also on way to Malda, were stopped by the police near Amriti.
Here are the latest developments:
"I want to ask the administration what are they trying to hide that they are stopping all other political parties?" said CPM lawmaker and Politburo member Mohammed Salim.
Lawmakers SS Ahluwalia, Bhupendra Yadav and Ram Vilas Vedanti said the police were under pressure from the state's Mamata Banerjee government when they asked them to leave citing prohibitory orders in the Kaliachak town of Malda.
"We said we want to know the truth, we have not come here to instigate anybody. Our purpose was to restore the confidence of the people there," Mr Ahluwalia, one of the two BJP parliamentarians from Bengal, told reporters. The lawmakers spent nearly three hours in the VIP lounge of Malda station before they were forced to take the train to Kolkata.
Ruling party lawmaker Derek O'Brien alleged that the BJP leaders were "going to fan the fire" in Malda and polarize voters. "It is a poor attempt by the BJP to communalise a criminal incident with 100 days to go till assembly polls. We are not getting sucked into the narrative," Mr O'Brien told NDTV.
Violence erupted in Kaliachak on January 3 after a lakh-strong gathering of Muslim activists gathered to protest against alleged blasphemous comments by an activist of the right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, who is now in a Lucknow jail.
The protesters, some of whom were allegedly armed, ransacked a Border Security Force jeep, attacked a police station and burnt cars. There were also reports of firing. The police say the violence started after the BSF jeep got stuck in a jam on the highway because of the procession.
The BJP has accused the state's ruling Trinamool Congress of protecting those behind the violence. The party alleges that the Kaliachak police station was targeted by people who wanted to burn down crime records. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said the violence was a criminal and not a communal incident.
Assembly polls are due later this year in Bengal, where almost 30 per cent voters are Muslim. Their swing away from the Left played an important role in Mamata Banerjee's stunning victory in 2011.
51 per cent of Malda, which borders Bangladesh, is Muslim. The Trinamool won just one assembly seat out of 12 in 2011 but since then, defections from the Congress and the Left have raised the Trinamool tally up to five. Two Lok Sabha seats were won by the Congress in 2014.
The BJP has so far been a minor player in the state. It got 16 per cent vote share in 2014. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP increased its vote share in Malda by almost 15 per cent.