Rapid Action Force was called out as members of two communities clashed in the Basirhat sub-division of North 24 Parganas, about 150 km from Kolkata, leaving at least 24 persons, including the officer-in-charge of a police station, injured.
Reportedly, clashes started around 11 pm on Monday and continued intermittently till Tuesday morning when members of one community started digging the pathway leading to a Durga temple at Chattal Pally village in Deganga police station, sources said.
“When repeated requests to stop the digging failed, we called the police,” said one of the victims, adding that the clashes started only when the police intervened.
Some people reportedly led by local ruffians — Maqbur Rehman and Mintu Sahji — attacked shops selectively and ransacked a couple of religious places, sources said, adding that a mob of about 500 persons resorted to massive stone-pelting, injuring three policemen. Officer-in-charge of Deganga, Arup Ghosh, received head injuries and suffered fracture in his hand.
District Magistrate V Kumar said precautions had been taken and curfew had been clamped in the area. Paramilitary forces had been called out to assist the RAF, sources said, refusing to give further details.
Two temples of Kartickpur and Deganga Biplabi colony were desecrated by the mob, sources said. “When we protested, they chased us with swords and hurled bombs. The police intervened but were hopelessly outnumbered,” Anil, a local who was also injured in the clashes, said.
A particular community wanted to stop the 25-year Durga Puja in the area but failed in the face of resistance from the other community, sources said, but added that in recent times the administration in its bid to woo the minorities after the 2009 General Elections “simply looked the other way leaving us at their mercy”.
The clashes spread to Kartickpur, Kadambagachi area as four stationary buses were torched. Traffic on the Deganga-Kadambagachi-Basirhat route came to a standstill even as the police resorted to lathicharge to control the crowd. The mob attacked shops at Beliaghata market as well, police sources said, adding, the situation was tense but under control.
“The situation could have been even worse had it not been a bandh day on Tuesday,” police said and added that the area, a busy market place on a normal day, could have witnessed major violence.
Basirhat, a parliamentary constituency bordering Bangladesh held till 2009 by the CPI, was wrested by Trinamool Congress’ Nurul Islam. Deganga-Berachapa, which has a Muslim population of more than 69 per cent, had been otherwise a peaceful area which made news only in 2008 following reports of land-acquisition. The local population united against the reported Government move to acquire land leading the administration to shelve the projects.
Eight out of 29 blocks have a ‘minority-dominated’ population, thanks to unchecked infiltration from Bangladesh, locals complained, adding, the protest against infiltration continued to be an irritant between the two communities.
“TC leader Ratna Chowdhury was pressuring the police not to take any action against the erring mob which selectively looted and ransacked shops of a particular community,” said Anil.
There was no communication from administration. Locals complained both the Left and the TC leaders, including Islam, were backing the attackers. “We are under continuous threat in our own country and if this trend continues, we will have to migrate to some other district,” Subhashis Tarafdar, a local, said.