Kolkata, Train services were disrupted, houses and shops set ablaze and workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Trinamool Congress fought pitched battles as violence continued to scald the Bhatpara assembly constituency on Tuesday, two days after the by-poll for the seat in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district.
Police have made over 60 arrests, while the central forces and the state police conducted route marches in a bid to restore peace in the constituency where by-polls were necessitated after Arjun Singh, who defected to the BJP from Trinamool Congress, resigned as MLA to contest the Lok Sabha polls.
Train services on the Sealdah-Naihati section of Eastern Railway’s Sealdah Division were obstructed for about three hours since around 8.40 a.m. on May 21, as a group of people squatted on the track near a level crossing gate at Kankinara station.
As a consequence, 17 EMU trains were detained en route as well as three Express trains namely 13104 Bhagirathi Express, 12384 Asansol-Sealdah Intercity Express and 15048 Poorvanchal Express, the ER said in a statement.
ER authorities had to cancel seven pairs of EMU locals. Also, seven EMU trains were terminated short of the destination.
“A large contingent of RPF & GRP and West Bengal Police are at the site to ensure safety and security of the passengers and to resume normal services,” it said.
Arjun Singh’s son Pawan Kumar Singh is fighting the Assembly by-polls on a BJP ticket. On the other hand, Saradha scam accused Madan Mitra is the Trinamool candidate.
The police and the administration held en emergency meeting at the Jagaddal police station to review the situation in Bhatpara and later conducted a route march in the troubled areas. Announcements were made asking people not to go by rumours. The Rapid Action Force has also been deployed.
“Till morning 62 people were arrested. Raid is going on and there have been more arrests. Some explosive material has been recovered,” Barrackpore Police Commissioner Sunil Chowdhury said.
He said that prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, barring assembly of more than four people in an area) had been imposed since Tuesday, and police pickets set up.
Arjun Singh, however, alleged that the police were beating up women and asked the EC to deploy the military.
“Police are beating up women and their role has called for immense protests. It is highly shameful. I want Election Commission to deploy military here and assign a special observer to oversee law and order and restore peace,” Singh said.
Mitra alleged the BJP workers had torched the residences of Trinamool workers and councillors.
“We want the rule of law to be in place immediately. If it is not established, people will take the matter in their hands,” he said.
Earlier, State Food Minister and Trinamool North 24 Parganas district President Jyotipriyo Mullick had blamed Singh and the central forces for disruptions and obstruction of trains at Kankinara station.
“Singh and his men are creating trouble. They are setting shops and houses on fire, disrupting trains and harassing the public. The paramilitary forces, deployed during the elections, are also supporting them. We have met the District Magistrate and sought their arrest within 24 hours,” he said.
On the other hand, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh and other party leaders called on Governor K.N. Tripathi and alleged that the state administration was “unwilling” to resolve the violence.
“The violence has been taking place in front of senior police officers. So I feel the administration is unwilling to stop the problem. Ahead of their defeat in the elections, State government is creating such an atmosphere and is trying to portray that only they can maintain peace here,” he told reporters after the meeting.
Ghosh said they have requested the Governor to inform the Election Commission and the union Home Ministry about the state’s situation, apprehending more rounds of violence after May 23 (vote counting day).
According to him, if the Trinamool loses a large number of seats, there is a high chance of disruptions on roads and blockades.