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West Bengal riot: How local dispute turned into communal violence?

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On Sunday, 10 may, sporadic clashes broke out between two communities in Telinipara in Hooghly district of West Bengal. Tensions flared up as Muslim mobs hurled petrol bombs in the area following which Hindu locals pelted stones at the Muslim mob. Soon after, the videos of the violence started floating on the internet, the police took cognizance of the matter.

Police raided the area and fired 26 rounds of tear gas and ten rounds of rubber bullets to disperse the crowd and detained 36 people involved in alleged violence according to Police Commissioner Humayun Kabir.

The dispute is said to be ensued after one group of people referred to another group as ‘corona’ after one of them tested positive for the virus. The said area was coronavirus hotspot and already barricaded by authorities. 

The situation escalated when some members from the adjoining areas decided to create their own barricade around the Muslim locality. The situation worsened when political leaders arrived there and tried to help the locals according to their preferences. “A clash broke out when the members of a community tried to break the barricades and come out of the particular pocket,” according to a police officer.

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The authorities snapped the internet to eschew the fire like a spread of misinformation about the alleged incident and imposed section 144 to bring the situation under control.

There was violence and retaliation from both sides. There was destruction on both sides as well,” said the officer. “There was some planning because we took control over the incident on Sunday night itself, but again it happened on Tuesday so we think that it was a planned attack,” told a police officer to The Quint. 

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee condemned the clashes and said some people were trying to start riots. “Some political parties only live on riots,” she said. We need to ensure no one instigates and provokes people. The Hooghly DM has been asked to appoint a nodal officer to keep an eye on social media.

“However, there has been no report of violence in the district since Thursday. (Prohibitory orders under) section 144 of the CrPc have been revoked as the situation considerably improves in clash-hit areas of Telinipara, Chandannagar, and Sreerampore. Internet services have been partially restored”, TOI has learnt.

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“Earlier, it was decided that the Internet suspension would continue till May 17, but now, after evaluating the situation, officials decided to allow restoration in certain areas. “We will soon take a call on a phase-wise restoration,” said officials.

At least 129 people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in clashes between two communities in Telinipara in West Bengal’s Hooghly district on Thursday according to the state Home Department.

How it all began

A group of migrant workers had returned home to Telenipara last week. In the mixed habitation of Hindus and Muslims, incidentally, a section of the Hindus insisted that the Muslim workers should go for the state-administered quarantine, instead of placing themselves in-home quarantine as suggested by the authorities. Firoz Khan, the local Councillor of Ward no.14 in the area, supported the Muslim workers. He ratified they could remain in-home quarantine. Also, some members of a community were stopped from visiting a public toilet, fearing the spread of the virus. Some locals argued that one family in the area was affected and thus the access to the toilet was blocked. The other community protested, resulting in a scuffle. Discontent between the two community groups continued to escalate until, on Sunday evening, it resulted in a communal clash with the local temple being vandalised and the idol mutilated.

On May 12, the Muslims alleged that they were provoked and teased by the Hindu neighbours who were of the view that ’Muslims get Corona’ and called them ‘Corona’. Such provocations led to confrontation and a few Hindu houses were set on fire.

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Locket Chatterjee, Member of Parliament from Hooghly, tried to reach the spot. She was, however, stopped by the police in the vicinity of Telenipara.

A state BJP team, comprising Ms. Chatterjee, Arjun Singh, Mukul Roy, and Sabyasachi Dutta, Swapan Dasgupta tried to further politicize the issue giving it a communal colour and spread the communal virus to further their political interests.

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hit out at the state government for what it has called a “communal clash” and a complete breakdown of law and order.

However, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said no one involved in the clashes will be spared and stern action will be taken against the miscreants. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee meanwhile continues to reiterate her promise to suppress all attempts of communal disruption in the State.

Input from: The Hindu

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