A group holding a Ram Navami procession clashed with the police in the outskirts of Asansol - a town around 200 km from Kolkata in Bengal -- this afternoon. Stones were throw at several police vehicles and at least one motorcycle was set on fire by rallyists, who claimed their Ram Navami procession was stoned by members of the minority community.
The clash took place on Barakar Station Road, an area populated chiefly by a minority community.
According to some reports, the Ram Navami rally - organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad - was going down the road with devotional music blaring from the audio system. Some locals objected to the noise, which triggered an argument and stone-throwing between the two communities
When the police rushed to the area, the rallyists turned on the police, which used batons to bring the situation under control.
The Rapid Action Force had to be called in, the police said. LN Meena, the city police chief, said, "The matter is now fully under control we are looking into the cause of the incident". The administration said investigations are on to find out what triggered the violence.
Three persons died in Asansol - the parliamentary constituency of Union minister Babul Supriyo - after Ram Navami last year. Violence had started during the rally for a very similar reason - loud music - and spread across the area.
The lawmaker had accused the police and the administration of tardy response, saying it had allowed the violence to spread.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had accused "outsiders" of trying to create trouble, pointing out that Ram Navami was never celebrated in the state.
The tradition was started by the BJP, which has been trying to expand its footprint in Bengal.
Over the last three years, the BJP has been active, holding rallies across the state in which participants are often armed with traditional weapons like swords and tridents.
Office bearers of the VHP confirmed that the VHP holds Ram Navami rallies across the Asansol area every year. This year, rallies were held not just at Baraker, but Raniganj and Asansol town as well
Last year, the ruling Trinamool Congress had adopted the celebration, holding rallies in several pockets of the state.
This year, Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh received a notice from the state Election Commission after reports that he had verbally abused administration officials during a rally held yesterday.
He has to file a response within 24 hours, sources in the Commission said.
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