Howrah (WB), March 30
Violence and arson was reported from West Bengal's Howrah district after clashes broke out between two groups during Ram Navami festivities, following which several vehicles were torched and shops were ransacked in the area, police said.
A number of people were detained in this connection, a senior police official said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee reacting to the incident said culprits won't be spared, and the law will take its own course.
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 would not be spared.
"I have repeatedly said that no Ram Navami procession will be blocked. 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.
The Chief Minister alleged that the BJP had hired goons from other states to orchestrate communal riots.
"Why did they change the route [at the last moment] and take the unauthorized route to target and attack one community? If they believe they will attack others and receive relief through legal interventions, they must know that the people will reject them one day," she said.
Senior BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, however, dubbed the allegations of stoking riots as "baseless".
"The chief minister and the state administration are responsible for the violence," claimed Adhikari.
West Bengal last witnessed witnessed communal riots during the Ram Navami celebrations five years back, a year ahead of general elections.
Earlier in the day, Ram Navami processions were taken out by leaders of the BJP and VHP in different parts of the state.
The VHP organized 1,000 large and small processions across the state on occasion, spokesperson Sourish Mukhopadhyay said.
Chanting 'Jai Shri Ram', thousands of people participated in those processions in Howrah, Kharagpur, Barrackpore, Bhadreswar, Siliguri and Asansol.
Drumbeats, saffron flags and giant cutouts of Lord Ram featured prominently in these processions. Some of those participating in the marches were also armed with swords and tridents.
BJP corporator Sajal Ghosh, who participated in one such rally in Howrah's Ramrajatala, justified the carrying of arms by stating "Lord Rama had used weapons to vanquish the demons." Leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikari participated in a Ram Navami procession in his constituency Nandigram in Purba Medinipur and offered puja at the Janakinath temple.
TMC leader and former BJP politician Arjun Singh also took part in a Ram Navami procession organized by a religious outfit in Barrackpore in North 24 Parganas district.
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