Heavily armed Ram Navami rally allegedly went violent in Bengal’s Howrah near the secretariat

West Bengal's Howrah district suffered another round of communal violence on Ram Navami, 2km away from the secretariat in front of the police

Heavily armed Ram Navami rally allegedly went violent in Bengal's Howrah near the secretariat

While West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bandopadhyay warned the Union’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Hindutva camp that her government would take strict action and spare no one if any kind of communal unrest was stirred by the latter in the state on the occasion of Ram Navami on Thursday, March 30th, the armed supporters of the saffron camp reportedly rampaged and unleashed attacks on the minority non-Bengali Muslims in Shibpur, a non-Bengali-dominated area of Howrah district adjacent to capital Kolkata, and only 2km away from the state secretariat Nabanna.

From Shibpur police station to Howrah Jute Mill, Aloka Cinema, Choura Bustee, Kazipara, PM Bustee, etc, armed non-Bengali miscreants, most of whom were participants in the Ram Navami rally, went on a rampage from Thursday afternoon till late night. Despite heavy police presence and a history of similar violence in the past few years on Ram Navami, the administration apparently failed to prevent the carnage.

Despite heavy police presence, the Ram Navami procession participants allegedly raised provocative slogans during late afternoon prayers in a mosque. It’s alleged that agitated Ram Navami marchers attacked minority Muslim slums with rods, swords, country pistols, bottles, and bombs after the members of the Muslim community, who have been fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, protested their objectionable sloganeering.

The minority non-Bengali Muslims resisted the boisterous Hindutva mob by resorting to stone pelting. The police didn’t take immediate measures to stop the conflict despite the worsening situation. After this, the non-Bengali participants of the Ram Navami procession, who were allegedly outsiders, started a rampage on GT Road leading to the Fazir Bazar area of Choura Bustee. They allegedly vandalised the handcarts of street hawkers, cycle-rickshaws (tricycles), etc. and set them ablaze. Two-wheelers standing on the road were also set on fire.

Only after the carnage engulfed a large area, the police lobbed tear gas shells and resorted to baton charging to disperse the mob. Even after the two warring sides dispersed, sporadic clashes continued in various places. Even after the police route march, tension continued in Howrah Jute Mill, PM Bustee, and other areas up to Fazir Bazar till night.

Although several people were reportedly injured in the clash between the two sides, the official number of casualties isn’t available. The local Jain Hospital and South Howrah State General Hospital also did not provide any casualty figures.

Neither the Howrah Superintendent of Police nor Shibpur Police Station officials commented on the number of casualties and the overall law and order situation. Shibpur police station officer-in-charge Arup Roy told East Post on Thursday night that the situation is normal and there is no tension anywhere. But signs of tension and violence still existed on the streets until late Thursday night.

On entering the area on Thursday evening, broken, charred rickshaw frames, handcarts, and motorcycle parts were found strewn all over the road. Various items of street hawkers are scattered around. The area bore a deserted look, as Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel marched on the streets. The only civilian presence was inside the narrow lanes and bylanes that connected the main road to the ghettoed slum clusters.

Haider Ali (52) is a street-side vegetable vendor. He used to sell vegetables on the main road near Shibpur’s Howrah Jute Mill. However, the police had asked him to move his handcart to a nearby lane due to the Ram Navami procession on Thursday. Ali said his handcart laden with different vegetables was vandalised and set on fire by the Ram Navami procession participants. A local biryani seller alleged that he got scared when the clash started, and he fell and got injured while dragging his utensils back into the shop.

Some Ram Navami procession participants alleged that bricks and stones were pelted targeting them from Muslim houses located near the Jain Hospital when their rally passed in front of a mosque during prayers. They claimed they retaliated with “double” fury to avenge the alleged attack on them.

However, Muslim residents of the area denied the accusations of attacking the procession and alleged that every year communal violence is triggered using the same pattern in the area during Ram Navami. They alleged that the clashes have turned into a show of strength between the ruling Trinamool Congress (AITC) and the BJP. Violence erupted in the district in 2022 as well, following similar religious processions where Islamophobic slogans were raised.

Local AITC block president Khurshid Master refused to speak to the press about Thursday’s incident and the party’s role in it. Although his supporters were spotted in most of the locality, they refused to comment on the incident. The people of the minority areas claim that they are being attacked by armed miscreants every time during the last few years on Ram Navami.

They alleged that the Muslim community is provoked every year in the same manner by raising obscene slogans in front of mosques, drawing parallels with incidents of anti-Muslim violence in other BJP-ruled states. They complain that even though the same template is used by the miscreants every year, the administration neither makes any arrangements for the safety of the common people nor does it stop the armed processions from carrying bombs, guns, etc.

The state’s home ministry and the home secretary didn’t issue any statement on how the miscreants managed to carry firearms and live countrymade bombs to a locality that’s in the vicinity of the state’s secretariat. Incidentally, Bandopadhyay holds the home portfolio of the state government.

On behalf of the state government, Bandopadhyay allowed the BJP to stage an armed march, while on the other hand, she again threatened that her government would remain a mute spectator if Muslims were attacked in any way. Even after that, the way armed Ram Navami processions attacked minority Muslims in front of the police in Howrah’s Shibpur, raises serious doubts regarding the law and order situation in the state, the local Muslims alleged.

One Comment
scroll to top