The workers of the BJP clashed with the police in Kolkata today as the party tried to hold a protest march to Lalbazar — the state police headquarters in the heart of the city. Unprecedented visuals from the spot showed the police using batons, tear gas and water cannons on hundreds of slogan-shouting workers who insisted on marching on despite repeated police appeals to stop. The BJP men then retaliated with stones and bottles.
Some of the party workers were seen holding a sit-in demonstration in the area.
The rally is in protest against the killing of two BJP workers at Bashirhat on Saturday and — BJP claims — the death of many other workers in clashes over the last few weeks.
All 18 newly elected lawmakers of the party, its state president Dilip Ghosh and the party’s state in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya senior party leader Mukul Roy had joined in the march.
With the rally turning into a fresh showdown between the BJP and the Mamata Banerjee government, the police, since morning, had put elaborate arrangements in place to tackle the possibility of workers breaking barricades.
The BJP had decided on Sunday to hold the rally after the police put an end to their efforts to take the bodies of the deceased workers to Kolkata.
The Centre has expressed deep concern over the situation in the state and issued an advisory on the law and order situation earlier this week. A day later, Bengal Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah to brief them about the ground situation.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has accused the centre of trying to cause riots and bring down her government.
Ms Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress has lost a chunk of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats to the BJP in the recently concluded national elections. From 34 of the state’s 42 seats in 2014, the party was reduced to 22 seats. The BJP, which won just two seats in 2014, won 18.
Ms Banerjee has promised to fight back, saying “a wounded tiger is much more dangerous than a dead one”.