Kolkata: Teargas shells, water cannons and a shower of batons turned the streets of Kolkata into a warzone for the second time in a week today as police and protesters clashed during a march called by the BJP to the police headquarters in the Lalbazar area in the heart of the city.
The BJP called the march to protest a range of issues. Among them, they say, are "false cases" being filed against BJP workers and also police "failure" to arrest Kolkata's controversial Imam Maulana Nurur Rehman Barkati for alleged anti-national statements.
The BJP had planned to march to Lalbazar from at least three different locations -- Howrah station, Dharmatala and College Square. Dilip Ghosh, state party chief, led the Howrah rally, General Secretary Rahul Sinha the one from Dharmatala and Kailash Vijayvargiya and Suresh Kumar the third.
Much of the violence was anticipated. On Monday, a protest by the Left Front had also resulted in clashes which, according to the police, left 69 men in uniform and 100 Left supporters injured. Even journalists including two NDTV camerapersons were injured.
And there are fears of a repeat of Monday's class which had, according to the police, Left 69 men in uniform and 100 Left supporters injured.
"We plan peaceful rallies. But if the police fail to manage them peacefully, that is their problem," Dilip Ghosh had said. Another BJP leader Sayantan Bera said, "If the police attack us with lathi and teargas, we will not throw back flowers."
BJP supporters from across the state have come to Kolkata to join the march - from North Bengal, Asansol, Jhargram and many other places. BJP had claimed 50,000 workers will be on the streets.
Ahead of the march, the Lalbazar area was tuned into a fortress. Steel and bamboo barricades were installed at key road crossing to stop the processions from storming the police headquarters.
A sense of competition is in the air, with BJP workers saying they have to do better than the Left. The Left has called the BJP protest a face as Mamata Banerjee will meet the prime minister this afternoon.