Lessons from Darjeeling come handy in quelling Asansol unrest during Ram Navami celebrations

Three IPS officers, including two who controlled pro-Gorkhaland agitation, rushed to Asansol and Raniganj where communal clashes flared up after Ram Navami processions on March 25. Local cable operators have been asked to stop telecast, internet services suspended and Section 144 imposed.

The West Bengal government has rushed three senior IPS officers and suspended internet services in Raniganj and Asansol towns of West Burdwan district to tackle the communal flare-up after Ram Navami celebrations on March 25. Similar measures were also adopted during the Gorkhaland agitation in June last year.

Two of the three Indian Police Service officers — Siddh Nath Gupta, director (security) and Jawed Shamim, inspector general of police (traffic, North Bengal) — spent a few months in Darjeeling to tackle the law and order situation in the Hills.

The region had witnessed a shutdown for 104 days and intermittent clashes between pro-Gorkhaland supporters and police.

Back in West Burdwan, district magistrate Sashank Shetti asked local cable operators to stop telecast until further orders. The administration suspended internet in Asansol (North), Asansol (South), Jamuria, Hirapur, Kulti and Raniganj police station areas to quell rumours and circulation of provocative messages and pictures.

Authorities have decided to withdraw the services till Friday, which may be extended if the situation warrants, officials said. In the North Bengal hills, the internet ban had continued from June 18 to September 25.

Authorities had also discontinued internet services in Basirhat subdivision for more than two weeks to stop circulation of inflammatory pictures and messages after Baduria and Basirhat towns in North 24 Parganas were hit by communal violence in July 2017.

In Raniganj at present, prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC are in force. This section of the Code of Criminal Procedure forbids assembly of more than four people. Police teams are patrolling the streets and checking vehicles.

“We are patrolling the area and taking all steps to restore normalcy. More than 50 people have already been arrested in connection with the incidents. We are also urging people over public address systems to desist from circulating rumours,” LN Meena, commissioner of Asansol-Durgapur Police, said.

Many shops and establishments remained closed and fewer vehicles plied on the roads. The situation poses a challenge to students appearing for the Class 12 state board exams.

“Since there is tension in the area, examinees are not being able to concentrate on studies,” said Pradip Chakraborty, a teacher in Raniganj.

Politicians, however, are continuing with the blamegame. “Police are taking necessary steps to restore normalcy,” Jitendra Tewari, mayor of Asansol Municipal Corporation, claimed.

BJP leader from Raniganj Laxman Ghorai alleged police’s inactivity helped trouble to spread. Union minister Babul Supriyo, who represents Asansol in the Lok Sabha, made the same allegations on Wednesday to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

Three people have died since March 25 in Arsha in Purulia district, Kankinara of North 24 Parganas district, and Raniganj. Deputy commissioner of police Arindam Dutta Chowdhury was seriously injured when a crude bomb was hurled at him in Raniganj.

The Centre has sought details of action taken in Raniganj from the state government.