West Bengal on the edge as Mamata and Governor face-off in a ugly spat

Communal clashes broke out in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district on Tuesday night following an “objectionable” Facebook post, prompting the government to rush in 400 BSF troopers to assist the local administration in controlling the situation.

According to PTI news report on the clashes, though there was no official confirmation about any casualties during the clashes, the incident triggered an unprecedented spat between chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, whom she accused of acting like “a BJP block president” and “threatening” her.

The Raj Bhawan voiced surprise over Mamata’s “attitude and language”, and said, “the Hon’ble Governor cannot remain a mute spectator of the affairs in the state.” Tripathi, a former BJP veteran and ex-speaker of Uttar Pradesh Assembly, was appointed West Bengal governor after the Narendra Modi government was formed in 2014.

The violence between two communities at Baduria under Basirhat sub-division in the district started on Monday night over the post following which a young man was arrested, the police said on Tuesday. A violent mob put up road blockades at several places and attacked members of other community, besides destroying many shops, they said.

Shops were shut down in Baduria as tension prevailed there and spread to adjacent areas like Keosha market, Banshtala, Ramchandrapur and Tentulia, the police said.

A senior Border Security Force (BSF) officer said four companies comprising 400 troops of the force’s South Bengal Frontier have been deployed in Bashirhat, Swarupnagar, Baduria and Devganga areas to assist the state police in containing the situation.

Several incidents of communal clashes have been reported in the state during recent times. Mamata, while strongly reacting to her conversation with Tripathi over the incident, said she felt so offended that “I once even thought of leaving (quitting as chief minister)”.

A Raj Bhavan statement quoted Tripathi as having said nothing happened during the talks over which Mamata should feel “insulted, threatened or humiliated”. “The talks between the Hon’ble chief minister and the Hon’ble governor were confidential in nature and none is expected to disclose it,” a statement issued by Raj Bhavan in Kolkata said.

It said that the governor asked the chief minister to ensure peace and law and order by all means. Condemning the riots, Mamata said, “This is a serious issue, let me handle it seriously.” She said after the arrest of one person, there should not have been any further trouble. “We were awake last night (to control it).”

Mamata said, “The ruling party at the Centre has an agenda. They have formed a ‘Gau Raksha group’ to kill people. A ‘hate group’ was formed to foment riots. Riots are taking place in the name of Hindu Samhati.”

Accusing the state police of failure to control the situation, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who is also in charge of the state, wrote a letter to Union home minister Rajnath Singh asking him intervene in the matter.

“More than 2,000 Muslims attacked Hindu families. Bombs went off at many places and information of Hindu sisters and daughters being raped has also been received. Local workers (of BJP) have said many facilities, including five BJP offices, were set on fire,” Vijayvargiya, who is based in Delhi, said.

Mamata said, “Someone had posted something objectionable on Facebook. He was arrested. Where is the fault of my government.” The West Bengal government has dispatched a special team of the state police and Kolkata Police to the riot-hit area to monitor the situation.

Official sources in Delhi said the clashes were triggered last evening over the Facebook post about a holy site. A demonstration was held in front of the Baduria police station by the people belonging to one community.

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