Ram Navami 2023: The procession of Rama Navami was taken out peacefully across India today (March 30). But, violence broke out between two groups when a procession was taken out in West Bengal’s Howrah city, where several vehicles were torched and shops were ransacked. Police said a number of people were detained in this connection.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is on a dharna, said strict action will be taken against the culprits. A police officer said the incident occurred when the procession was passing through the Kazipara locality. Several shops and auto-rickshaws were ransacked during the violence while a number of cars including a few police vehicles were set on fire.
Four fire tenders were pressed into service to extinguish the blaze. The police used force to disperse the mob. A large contingent of police was deployed in the locality where the situation is stated to be under control. The chief minister slammed the BJP for allegedly trying to stoke communal tension during the Ram Navami procession in Howrah and said those involved in the incident will not be spared.
"I have repeatedly said that I will not block any Ram Navami procession. I had given clear instructions to the police in this regard. While one community is celebrating Annapurna Puja, the other is observing fast during Ramzan," she said while concluding her 30-hour extended sit-in in a demonstration in the city.
"Those who were involved in today's violence will not be spared. I do not support riot mongers and consider them the enemy of the country. The BJP has always targeted Howrah. The other targets for them are Park Circus and Islampur. Everybody must be alert in their localities," she said.
BJP reaction on Howrah violence:
Senior BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, however, dubbed the allegations as baseless. "The chief minister and the state administration are responsible for the violence," Adhikari, the Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal assembly, said.
Stones were hurled at two Ram Navami processions in Gujarat's Vadodara city on Thursday, police said, adding that some persons were injured in one of the incidents. While the first incident took place near Panjrigar mohalla in Fatehpura area in the afternoon, the second took place in nearby Kumbharwada in the evening.
While no one was injured in the Fatehpura incident, some persons including women were injured in the stone pelting by a mob in Kumbharwada, police said.
The procession that came under attack in Panjrigar mohalla had been organised by the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). The other procession had been organised by local residents. Local BJP MLA Manisha Vakil was part of the procession which came under attack in Kumbharwada.
"When the `shobha yatra' (procession) was passing peacefully, some people suddenly started throwing stones at us. Some women who were part of the procession got injured. Police are trying their best to maintain law and order. Minister of State (MoS) for Home Harsh Sanghavi called me and took a stock of the situation on the ground," said Vakil.
Videos of the incident showed people running for shelter after stone pelting began. A chariot carrying a Ram idol was pulled away to a safe location. Some of the injured told reporters that stones came from nearby terraces. City police commissioner Shamsher Singh visited Kumbharwada area after the incident.
"We will nab everyone who was involved in stone-pelting. We have CCTV footage," he told reporters. Earlier in the afternoon, stones were hurled at a VHP-organised Ram Navami procession when it was passing through Fatehpura area.
While some vehicles got damaged, no one was injured and the procession passed ahead along its planned route under police protection, said Deputy Commissioner of Police Yashpal Jaganiya. Jaganiya and other senior police officials rushed to the spot upon learning about the incident.
A Bajrang Dal leader claimed that police were nowhere to be seen when the incident took place, but the DCP denied it. "The situation is under control. The (Fatehpura) incident took place when the procession reached near a mosque and people started gathering there. This is not a communal riot. We dispersed the crowd and the procession went ahead on its route. All such processions in the city had already been given police protection," Jaganiya told reporters.
Additional Commissioner of Police Manoj Ninama also reached the spot and ordered deployment of additional force to maintain peace.
"We have deployed armed men from regular police, crime branch, SOG (Special Operation Group) and State Reserve Police Force. As of now, there are no reports of anyone getting injured in the stone pelting. We have ordered an inquiry," he said.
No arrests have been made yet, he added. Vadodara Bajrang Dal president Ketan Trivedi claimed that the stone-pelting was part of a conspiracy. "This procession is targeted almost every year. Despite knowing that, there was no police deployment in the area. Stones were pelted as part of a pre-planned conspiracy," he said.
(With agencies inputs)
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