One dead and several seriously injured in Siliguri as BJP members clash with the police during the party’s ‘March to Uttarkanya’

Published : December 07, 2020 21:27 IST

BJP workers clash with the police during their ‘Uttarkanya Abhijan’ in Siliguri on December 7. Photo: PTI

An activist of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was killed and several of his colleagues were seriously injurd as members of the saffron party clashed with the police in Siliguri, north Bengal, during its programme called Uttarkanya Abhijan (March to Uttarkanya, the administrative headquarters of north Bengal) on December 7. Just two months ago the BJP’s Nabanna Abhijan (march to storm Nabanna, the State Secretariat in Kolkata) resulted in pandemonium.

For several hours Siliguri resembled a warzone as supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) fought with the police using stones and bottles as projectiles. They came in waves from different directions, broke down the barricades as they waged a seesaw battle against the police on the streets. The police responded with tear gas, water cannon and a lathi charge. Fifty-year-old BJP worker Ulen Rai, a resident of Jalpaiguri, died of the injuries sustained in the violence. Several other BJYM activists were also badly injured. According to the BJP, Ulen Rai had multiple pellet wounds on his body.

Dilip Ghosh, State BJP president and Lok Sabha MP, claimed that many BJP workers had similar pellet injuries on them. “We do not know whether these were fired by the police or by Trinamool goons,” he said. Kailash Vijayvargiya, the BJP’s national secretary, Tejaswi Surya, national president of the BJYM, and Dilip Ghosh led the march from two different directions.

Later, the BJP gave a call for a 12-hour bandh on December 8 and sent a delegation to meet the Governor of West Bengal, Jagdeep Dhankhar. Vijayvargiya said: ”It is unbelievable that the police is clamping down on a peaceful expedition with such violence.” He claimed that theirs was a “peaceful expedition which was attacked by the police and Trinamool goons...." "This is Mamata Banerjee’s true face,” he said, adding that the situation in West Bengal warranted President’s rule.

Political observers feel that this is yet another demonstration by the BJP, ahead of the State Assembly elections due next year, to send across the message that it has the manpower and the organisational strength to take on the ruling party on the streets.

The police denied having resorted to lathi charge or using firearms. It said in a statement released on social media: “Today in Siliguri, serious acts of violence were committed by the supporters of a political party during their protest programme. They resorted to arson, brick-batting, firing and vandalism of govt property. Police showed restraint and didn’t do lathicharge or used firearms. Only water cannons and tear gas were used to disperse the violent crowd. However, death of a person has been reported. Body is being sent for PM [post mortem]. The actual cause of death will be known only after the PM.”

The Trinamool Congress dismissed the allegations made by the BJP and condemned the violence in Siliguri. Goutam Deb, State Tourism Minister and Trinamool strongman from north Bengal, said: “This cannot be a democratic movement. They have used violence, brought in outsiders, attacked the police, burnt tyres. Uttarkanya represents the aspirations of the people of north Bengal, we strongly condemn the vandalism carried out by the BJP.”