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‘Bengal Ram Navami violence was
pre-planned, CM gave inflammatory speech’

News‘Bengal Ram Navami violence waspre-planned, CM gave inflammatory speech’

NEW DELHI: The Ram Navami violence that broke out in parts of West Bengal last month was “pre-planned” and “orchestrated”; the violence was also the result of a “grossly inflammatory speech” by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, a six-member fact finding committee that visited Bengal stated in its interim report.
“The Committee has seen a video of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, played across media channels, wherein just before the processions on Ram Navami, while sitting on dharma, she made a call through a communal speech that any procession passing through Muslim areas (as spoken verbatim) will be seriously acted upon. It appears that soon after this, communally charged mob violence broke out against people taking part in the peaceful Ram Navami processions,” the committee said in its report.
The committee also pointed out the lackadaisical attitude of the state police, who according to the report, was found to be “missing in action”. The committee further demanded an investigation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The six-member fact finding team that visited West Bengal on the aftermath of the violence to ascertain the damage to life and property, consisted of former Patna High Court Chief Justice L. Narsimha Reddy, former IPS Raj Pal Singh, former member of National Commission for Women advocate Charu Wali Khanna, former Joint Registrar (Law) National Human Rights Commission of India advocate O.P. Vyas, senior journalist Sanjeev Nayak and former consultant National Commission for Protection of Child Rights advocate Bhavna Bajaj.
The committee further blamed the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of being “grossly biased” and “prejudiced”. It said in its interim report, “The Chief Minister, in a public rally after the violence in Howrah while addressing the public, had directly blamed the Hindus for the mishaps that had taken place during the procession Ram Navami on 30.03.2023. The video is particularly disturbing as the Chief Minister of the State without proper inquiry and investigation had effectively given clean chit to a particular community claiming that they cannot do any wrong during the time of Ramzan, thereby blaming the Hindus for the entire chain of violence that had taken place. Such a partisan approach by a Chief Minister in the view of this Committee was a continuing trigger for violence and riots.”
In its report, the committee said that the state police “failed” to provide security in advance and that it also failed to secure the life and property of individuals who participated in a “peaceful” procession.
“The state police failed to provide security in advance and also failed to secure the life and property of procession takers knowing fully well the sensitive nature of the area. Because of the state’s utter failure, the procession takers were attacked under heavy stone pelting which is visible on record through several self-made videos,” the committee in its report said.
The committee also accused the West Bengal police of not cooperating with the victims of the communal clash and “falsely” implicating innocent people participating in the Ram Navami procession. It also noted that there was a delayed response of the police in controlling the riot and visiting the riot affected areas. “The police did not respond to frantic calls for protection or take action to control the communal mob, despite only being a few hundred metres away,” the committee said.
The committee also noted in its report that the state police was not registering FIR in cases even when the victim was hospitalised, which called for a Medico Legal Case (MLC).
Meanwhile, the West Bengal government has constituted a special investigation team of the CID to investigate into the riots that broke out in different parts of the state on the occasion of the Ram Navami procession that was being celebrated on 30 March 2023.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on the other hand, has lashed out at the fact-finding committee that visited West Bengal for three days. She said that the fact-finding committee did not have any value since it was neither a committee constituted by the Supreme Court nor the High Court.
Speaking at a function in Kolkata on 11 April, Mamata Banerjee said, “Is this fact-finding committee authorised by the Supreme Court or High Court? Or is it from the government, or is it from the party (BJP)? If it has been authenticated by the party, it is of no value. It is valueless, baseless, caseless, and faceless. A non-issue has become their religious issue. But it is not a religious matter, it is criminal violence and not communal violence.”
Mamata Banerjee further alleged, “Why would people in a religious procession carry arms, dance with a gun, and bring bulldozers. With whose permission? All of this is illegal. They danced like mad people.”
The Chief Minister said that those individuals who participated in the procession were “outsiders” brought into Bengal from Bihar. The committee members, on the contrary, said that if the state government had nothing to hide, why the state government and the police stopped the committee members from visiting the riot-affected areas.
The Calcutta High Court on Monday also noted that according to the report filed by the Howrah police commissioner, the communal violence in the area “prime facie” shows that it was “pre-planned” and, therefore, a probe by a Central agency would be able to bring out the truth.
“There are allegations of stones being hurled from rooftops. Obviously, it is not possible for anyone to take stones up to the rooftop within 10 to 15 minutes. The report proceeds on the line that the clash took place between two groups. There can be a third person who wants to take advantage of the situation. If that group is involved, then it requires investigation by a Central agency. That is very difficult for the state police to find. Somebody would have set the fire, had set the ball rolling. Without a probe by a Central agency, you can’t identify that outside source,” the two-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court comprising Acting Chief Justice T.S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya told senior advocate general of West Bengal S.N. Mookherjee. However, the court has reserved its order on the plea that sought investigation by the NIA.
On the occasion of Ram Navami, violence had broken out in several parts of the state, with the most affected being Howrah, Hooghly and parts of Islampur, which left at least one dead and several others injured.

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