The heart of Kolkata was drowned in a deluge of saffron as thousands of BJP took part in party President Amit Shah’s roadshow ahead of the seventh and final phase of the Lok Sabha elections on May 19. But Amit Shah’s roadshow in Kolkata ended up in violent clashes between Trinamool Congress youth members and BJP workers at College Street in the northern part of the city.
A sea of saffron was seen during Amit Shah’s nearly 4-km roadshow from Esplanade to the ancestral home of Swami Vivekananda, a journey he could not complete. Women in traditional Bengali white sarees with red borders, tribals donning the BJP’s trademark saffron turbans and carrying bows and arrows danced as the caravan inched through the cramped streets of West Bengal’s capital city. With the state polarised along communal lines like never before during an election, the parade had men dressed like Ram, Hanuman and the ‘Vanar Sena’, the army of apes that helped the Lord defeat demon king Ravan, according to epic Ramayana.
However, the rhythm was broken when a clash broke out between the saffron party activists and members of Trinamool Congress students’ union near Calcutta University building, towards the end of the road show as the two opposing groups attacked each other with stones, bamboo sticks and metal rods. The campus of Vidyasagar College on College Street was allegedly vandalised by BJP and ABVP supporters after they were provoked by the students from inside.
Here are 10 things we know so far about the clashes that took place in Kolkata:
BJP and TMC supporters fought pitched battles on the streets of Kolkata during a massive roadshow by Amit Shah, who escaped unhurt but was forced to cut short the jamboree and had to be escorted to safety by police.
The clashes broke out near the iconic Presidency College and Calcutta University after ‘black flags were waved’ at Shah and stones were allegedly pelted at his convoy from the hostels of Vidyasagar College.
Furious BJP supporters retaliated and were seen exchanging blows with their TMC rivals outside the college entrance.
During the violence that followed, the mob vandalised the college hostel and broke the 200-year-old statue of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.
Several motorcycles parked outside were vandalised and set ablaze. Shards of broken glass littered the lobby of the college where a bust of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, a noted philosopher and a key figure of Bengal Renaissance, was smashed to smithereens. Police personnel were seen trying to douse the fire with buckets filled with water.
“There was an attempt by TMC hooligans to attack me. Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal chief minister) tried to provoke violence. But I am safe,” Shah said. He was told by police that the permission for the roadshow ended near the college and that he will be taken to the ancestral home of Swami Vivekananda on Bidhan Sarani. “They (police) deviated from the planned route and took a way where there were traffic jams. I was not allowed to reach Swami Vivekananda’s house to pay tributes and I am saddened by it,” Shah claimed.
It took no time for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to hit back at Amit Shah. Banerjee hit right back, calling Shah a “goonda”. “If you lay your hands on Vidyasagar, what will I call you other than a goonda,” she told a rally in Behala in the city. “I hate your ideology, I hate your ways,” she said and announced a protest rally against the vandalisation of the bust of Vidyasagar.
Gautam Kundu, principal of Vidyasagar College said, “The BJP supporters carrying party flags barged inside the office and started abusing us. They tore papers, ransacked the offices and union rooms and while leaving desecrated the bust of Vidyasagar. They locked the gates and set bikes and motorcycles on fire” A few students were injured by the BJP supporters, he said.
Before the clashing mobs took over the streets of central Kolkata, Shah led a saffron surge in parts of the city as chants of ‘Jai Shri Ram, Jai Jai Shri Ram’ alternated with frenzied chorus of ‘Modi! Modi!’.
After the incident, the TMC sought a meeting with the Election Commission over the destruction of a statue of Bengali writer and philosopher Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar during clashes between workers of the ruling party and the BJP. “Trinamool parliamentary team comprising Derek O’Brien, Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, Manish Gupta, Nadimul Haque seeks meeting with EC in aftermath of the attack on Bengal’s heritage after Shah roadshow in Kolkata. BJP outsider ruffians resort to arson and break Vidyasagar’s bust,” the TMC said in a tweet.
The Correspondent Bureau with inputs from agencies