In an unusual move underlining the gravity of the situation, West Bengal Director General of Police Virendra on Friday visited the Jaggatdal police station area - 40 km from Kolkata - for a first-hand assessment of post-poll tensions bordering on the communal in the area.
Since May 6, polling day in the Lok Sabha constituency of Barrackpore of which Jaggatdal was a part, there had been unrest. It peaked on counting day and the day after, with Trinamool and BJP supporters resorting to arson, bomb attacks, vandalism and assaults on police personnel. Hindus and Muslims both claimed that they were targeted by the political rivals, and some people were injured in the clashes.
As things spiralled south, Director General Virendra arrived in the Jaggatdal-Bhatpara area for a first-hand assessment of the situation. He also held a high-level meeting with the Barrackpore police commissioner and other officers.
Later in the day, religious leaders from both communities were called for a peace meeting at the Bhatpara police outpost.
The newly elected MP from Barrackpore, Arjun Singh of the BJP, was part of the talks. In the past, he had blamed Trinamool Congress leader Madan Mitra for the violence. He promised to help de-escalate tensions at the earliest.
Police have assured that shops and other establishments would be opened on Saturday, and prohibitory orders would be eased. Many police personnel continue to patrol the area.
Barrackpore witnessed a complex election this time. The rivals for the Lok Sabha seat were incumbent Trinamool MP Dinesh Trivedi and the BJP's Arjun Singh. Mr Singh, formerly a Trinamool legislator from the Bhatpara assembly segment, had switched to the BJP only this April. Once he switched, a bypoll was announced for Bhatpara. While the BJP fielded Mr Singh's son, Pawan, the Trinamool Congress went with former Transport Minister Madan Mitra.
So, two electoral battles were being fought by former comrades, and it was a bitter fight in which the rivals accused each other of fanning communal tensions for electoral gains. Once Madan Mitra lost the bypolls to Pawan Singh, he stopped going to the area. For the newly elected lawmakers, it is now politically expedient to bring down tensions in Barrackpore.
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