A motorcycle was burnt, stones thrown and a bust of social reformer Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar vandalized during BJP chief Amit Shah’s mega roadshow in Kolkata on Tuesday evening. The BJP and Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress have accused each other for violence at two places.
The violence triggered a sharp reaction from Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who appealed for calm but pinned the blame for the violence on BJP supporters.
“We apologise for their acts… Why did the police allow them to hold the roadshow?” Banerjee said at a public meeting in south Kolkata’s Behala area minutes after the first reports of the violence came in.
Banerjee also warned that if its leaders ended up hurting Bengal’s heritage, “no one will be more dangerous than me”.
Amit Shah, on the other hand, told television channels after his roadshow that Trinamool Congress supporters with black flags had attacked his party workers at two places. “I was scheduled to visit Swami Vivekananda’s ancestral home after the roadshow but the police guided my car to a different road,” Amit Shah said.
BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said he had no idea about the trouble. “We had passed the spot much earlier,” said BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.
It is not clear how the violence started.
According to news agency ANI, some miscreants first started throwing sticks near College Street in which the BJP president Amit Shah was travelling in. Angry BJP supporters responded by throwing stones and sticks at the university gates. As tension mounted, the police pushed the All India Trinamool Student Congress activists inside the university campus and closed the gates.
Amit Shah’s roadshow covered about 4 km from Esplanade at the centre of the city to Swami Vivekananda’s residence in north Kolkata. College Street formed a stretch towards the end of the route.
College Street is the education hub of Kolkata and is lined with institutions such as Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, Calcutta University, Presidency College, Sanskrit Collge, Vidyasagar College and a famous book hub consisting of hundreds of book retailers and publishers.
However, the ruling party’s student union leaders kept shouting “Chowkidar Chor Hai” slogans from behind the gates. BJP supporters countered them by shouting “Jai Shri Ram”.
The BJP supporters tried to smash through the barricade and enter the university campus, but were thwarted by cops who stopped short of baton charging.
A section of the BJP supporters also threw stones and bottles at the TMCP supporters who were separated from them by the iron gates of the university campus and a wall of policemen trying to contain the crowd.
The TMC supporters, too, retaliated from inside the campus.