Kolkata: Clashes in the four districts of West Bengal — Malda, North 24 Parganas, West Midnapore and Hooghly — have put the state administration on the back foot, as hundreds of people fled these areas for safety in Kolkata.
Although police claimed the situation was under control, officials admitted at least 30 homes were burnt down, with several people injured in the Hazinagar and Halisahar areas of North 24 Parganas.
“At least 30 homes and several shops have been burnt down. Over 50 people have been injured in the communal clashes since last Wednesday,” admitted a senior police official in North 24 Parganas, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Other sources believed the number of people injured in clashes could be higher, as the riots took place over a large geographical area that is densely populated.
The trigger was a low-intensity bomb allegedly thrown at a Muharram procession on Wednesday, police said.
While no one was injured in the blast, it triggered violence with a number of homes being allegedly attacked and communities allegedly retaliating.
On Monday, some homes stood empty.
Many of the houses bore signs of having been ransacked.
With shops shut, food and medicines and other daily necessities are beginning to become scarce.
A delegation of opposition leaders, including Abdul Mannan and leader of the Left Legislative party Sujan Chakroborty, were allegedly stopped by police as they were trying to enter Hazinagar on Sunday.
Chakraborty accusing the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) of failing to maintain law and order, claimed that at least 2,000 people have fled from their homes due to the clashes.
“There should be a peace march, an all-party meeting. Right now with people fleeing their homes, the violence is just spreading. This has to be stopped. But TMC leaders are busy trying to suppress the news and thereby giving more credence to parties like Bharatiya Janata Party and other ultra-Hindu nationalist elements,” said Chakraborty.
Seeing an opportunity to enhance their politics, organisations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other ultranationalist Hindu organisations have entered the foray, making the situation even more grave for the state administration.
These organisations have taken to social media and the news of communal unrest is spreading fast even before the state administration could strategise. On Monday, the state police tweeted, “Some elements with ill motive trying to do rumour mongering through different means including social network sites. Request to be cautious against them,” the state police tweeted.
However, local residents say that the administration was least prepared in foreseeing such an incident as district officials were more busy giving awards to puja pandals. “they were taken aback by the sudden incident and there was no contingency plan as to how to handle this. People were such giving our speeches and nothing more,” said Iftikar Hasnan, a social worker.