Malda violence: CPI-M, BJP teams prevented from visiting Kaliachak (Roundup)

Kolkata/New Delhi, Jan 11 (IANS) Delegations of opposition parties BJP and CPI-M were on Monday prevented from proceeding to violence-hit Kaliachak in Malda district by the administration, triggering a war of words between political opponents in West Bengal.

Eight days after the violence during which a police station was attacked and BSF vehicles torched, the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress accused the BJP and the RSS of trying to turn a “criminal issue” into a “communal” one in view of the upcoming assembly polls.

The BJP called the January 3 violence a “planned action” and flayed the administration for stopping its parliamentarians.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist alleged that the state administration was not allowing opposition parties to proceed to Kaliachak as it had “something to hide”.

The three BJP MPs — Bhupendra Yadav, Ram Vilas Vedanti and S.S. Ahluwalia — sent by the party on a ‘fact finding mission’ were detained on Monday morning soon after they alighted from the Gaur Express at Malda station, 30 km from Kaliachak.

Ahluwalia, the sole Bharatiya Janata Party Lok Sabha member from Bengal, told reporters that the team’s only purpose was to ascertain the truth and restore the confidence of the people.

“We told the Malda district administration that we have come to ascertain the truth, we have not come to instigate or incite anyone. We wanted to restore the confidence of the people,” he said at Malda station.

Police told the MPs that prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure had been clamped at Kaliachak.

“They (police) told us that our presence will lead to problems, and the situation would deteriorate,” said Ahluwalia.

The MPs spent three hours at the station, before they were “forced to board” the Shatabdi Express.

Yadav termed the act “condemnable”.

Hours later, a CPI-M delegation headed by Lok Sabha member Mohammad Salim was also stopped.

Salim, also a Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member, said that despite having given prior intimation to the district administration about their visit, they were stopped by a large posse of policemen at Amriti, about 35 km from Kaliachak.

“They said our visit could trigger law and order problems. Though I told them that my aim was to ascertain the facts by talking to the people, they refused to budge,” said Salim.

“I wonder if the administration has something to hide. And so it is stopping all opposition parties from going to the troubled spot.”

Triinamool chief national spokesperson Derek O’Brien accused the BJP parliamentary team of trying to go to Kaliachak to fuel “communal tension”.

“This was a ‘criminal issue’ but the BJP/RSS, as is their strategy, tried to turn it into a ‘communal issue’.”

O’Brien said the situation at Kaliachak was “tense”, but never “got out of hand” and praised police for handling the issue “tactfully”.

“Thankfully, no deaths occurred, no injuries and 10 people have been arrested.”

The Trinamool Rajya Sabha member alleged that the “BJP/RSS were trying for the last one week to present, what I call, CIN 100: Communally Insensitive Narrative, 100 days before the state goes to polls.”

In Delhi, BJP national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh said party leaders will meet union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and seek investigation by an appropriate agency into the violence.

“An incident happens on December 1 and the reaction happens on January 3… it took more than 30 days. If there was a communal reaction, it had to be spontaneous. Therefore, it was not a communal reaction, but a planned action,” Singh told reporters.

The BJP leader said Malda had become a hub for drug trade as authorities overlooked opium cultivation, asking why the West Bengal chief minister did not make efforts to stop such cultivation.

According to reports, protesting against remarks allegedly made to “hurt religious sentiments” in Uttar Pradesh, a large number of people on January 3 went on a rampage in Kaliachak, torching vehicles including those belonging to the Border Security Force (BSF) and also attacked the police station.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has asserted that the violence was not the result of a communal strife but a fight between BSF personnel and residents of the area.

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