Kolkata: Clashes broke out in Bengal's Murshidabad and Raniganj over Ram Navami processions, continuing the chain of violence that flared up yesterday in various pockets of the state. As the violence in Murshidabad, which continued for the better part of the morning, was followed by reports of arson from Raniganj, a livid Mamata Banerjee said the matter will be dealt with strongly.
Ram Navami has never been a major festival in Bengal but over the last two years, the BJP has been especially active, holding rallies where participants are often armed with traditional weapons like swords and tridents.
In Murshidabad's Kandi, an armed crowd barged into a police station, at which the police had to retaliate. Batons were used to control the situation. Visuals from the area showed frenzied mobs rushing around, their faces smeared with red. In the afternoon, two communities clashed in Raniganj, a town in the coal belt. Motor bikes were set on fire and policemen were attacked at a local market. Some policemen were injured.
"Did Ram tell anyone to carry pistols? So many hooligans defaming Ram," fumed Ms Banerjee. Invoking the state's peacuful traditions, she said, "We Bengalis hold Kali puja.. Durga puja... all peacefully... not with weapons and hooliganism.I will speak to the authorities on this. We will have to deal with it A-Z... we have to deal with this strongly."
Even after strengthened security in the state, clashes were reported yesterday from Purulia district after a group allegedly tried to organise a rally without prior permission from police. One villager was killed and three police officers were injured in the clash. Clashes were also reported from Bardhaman, where a puja pandal was attacked.
In state capital Kolkata, more than 60 rallies were organized - some of them by the ruling Trinamool Congress and led by the party's senior leaders like Firhad Hakim, Sadhan Pande.
But most of the violence have centred armed rallies - held in many cases without prior police permission despite a stern warning from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh, participated in one, held in West Midnapore, armed with a sword. So did the party's women wing president Locket Chatterjee and national secretary Rahul Sinha.
"We are celebrating this festival for years, no one should resist us. It is the government's duty to maintain the peace. Our groups have got permission to celebrate, this is a religious festival," Dilip Ghosh had said.