Violence marred the Ram Navmi celebrations in West Bengal on Sunday with clashes and many brandishing arms, weapons defying the state directive. One person lost his life while five police personnel suffered injuries during a clash between two groups over a rally in Purulia.
A deputy superintendent of police-rank officer was among the policemen injured after violence erupted between the two groups over the Ram Navami procession taken out in the Arsha police station area of the district, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Anuj Sharma said.
Some people were arrested for their alleged involvement in the incident, he added.
The ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the opposition BJP had organised processions to celebrate Ram Navami in various parts of the state today, with the saffron party dubbing these rallies as the first step towards "uniting the Hindus" of Bengal.
At several places, armed processions were taken out to mark the occasion.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh was seen participating in one such rally with a sword and a mace in Kharagpur of West Midnapore district.
Ghosh said it was an age-old Hindu tradition to conduct "astra puja" (worship of weapons) on the day of Ram Navami.
Sharma, however, said, "Despite the police not giving permission, armed rallies were taken out at various places. The police will take legal action against it."
TMC leaders of Purulia district alleged that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) took out an armed Ram Navami procession, where children were seen wielding weapons.
When contacted, state VHP president Sachindranath Singha denied the allegation.
"We had not taken out any armed Ram Navami procession. I have no information about any such armed procession with children but still, as allegations have been raised, I will look into it," he said.
Ananya Chatterjee Chakraborty, Chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said she was aware of the incident and would take action against it.
"I spoke to the district magistrate. He told me that the incident had taken place. The police reached the spot subsequently and stopped the rally. We will take action very soon," she told PTI.
The TMC, in a bid to counter the rallies organised by the BJP and Sangh Parivar affiliates, took out colourful processions and held Ram Puja in various parts of the state.
"The BJP will not be able to use Ram Navami as an excuse to divide the people of the state," a party leader said.
Ghosh claimed that these rallies were a first step towards uniting the Hindus of the state against the "anti-Hindu TMC government".
He also mocked the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC over celebrating Ram Navami.
"Better late than never. At last, they have accepted the importance of Lord Ram. We are happy that they have realised their mistake," Ghosh said.
Senior TMC leader and state minister Partha Chatterjee alleged that the BJP was trying to divide the people by using religion as a tool, asserting that the saffron party's strategy would never succeed in Bengal.
"Religion does not teach us to divide the people. If the BJP tries to divide the people on the basis of religion, we will give them a befitting reply," he said.
In Kolkata, several Ram Navami rallies were organised by the members of the Sangh Parivar, with an estimated 6,000-8,000 people taking part in each one of them.
Colourful processions with saffron flags and photos of Lord Ram were taken out with the Sangh Parivar activists shouting slogans, hailing Lord Ram.
The processions were organised under the banner of "Rama Navami Utjapan Samity".
BJP leader Mukul Roy and the party's state general secretary Sayantan Basu took part in Ram Navami rallies at Baghbazar and the Ram Leela maidan respectively.
In Nadia, Birbhum, Bankura, East Midnapore, Purulia, Burdwan, Siliguri, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Coochbehar, North and South Dinajpur districts, huge processions were taken out to celebrate Ram Navami.
The TMC too took out rallies in various parts of the state with senior party leaders Firhad Hakim, Anubrata Mandal, Ashis Banerjee, Sujit Bose, Sadhan Pande taking part in the processions.
Earlier this month, the TMC had said it would take out rallies in several districts on Ram Navami.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had last week directed the police not to allow any organisation to take out armed processions during Ram Navami, barring those who have been organising such rallies for a long time.
(With PTI inputs)