Kolkata: At least five police personnel were injured in clashes with mobs during the ongoing COVID-19-induced-lockdown at two places in West Bengal on Tuesday, officials said.
Seven locals also suffered injuries during the violence in Hooghly and South 24 Parganas districts, they said, adding that police vehicles were damaged and shops were ransacked.
At least 72 people were arrested from these two areas, the officials said.
Claiming that hooligans sheltered by the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) were behind the incidents, a delegation of opposition BJP called on Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar to apprise him of the situation in the state.
The governor expressed “serious concern at the incidents”.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on the other hand, lashed out at the saffron party for allegedly instigating communal clashes in the state amid the lockdown.
Four police personnel and seven local people were injured and several shops were ransacked during a clash between two groups during the lockdown at Telinipara in Hooghly district, an officer of the Chandannagar Police Commissionerate told PTI.
Members belonging to two groups, which had clashed near a jute mill there on Sunday night, engaged in another fight hurling bombs at each other and set shops on fire.
“Policemen were also injured when they tried to control the situation. We have so far arrested 54 people in connection with the clash,” he said, adding that the situation is now under control.
Clashes erupted in Telinipara on Sunday after members of one group were allegedly addressed as “corona” by locals belonging to another group.
Internet services will remain suspended in Chandannagar and Srerampore sub-division of Hoogly district till 6 pm of May 17, officials said.
In the other incident at Baruipur area of South 24 Parganas district, a sub-inspector and four civic volunteers were beaten up by a mob when they asked people who had gathered near a tea stall to maintain social distancing, officials said.
The mob also damaged a police vehicle.
Eighteen people have been arrested for attacking police personnel, they said.
Policemen seeking to maintain social distancing were also attacked at Tikiapara in Howrah district last moonth.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, after meeting the group of BJP leaders including Locket Chatterjee, Arjun Singh and Mukul Roy at the Raj Bhawan, expressed “serious concern at the incidents”.
Dhankhar called upon the people to observe utmost restraint and maintain communal harmony at all costs, a statement released by the governor’s office read.
He urged police and administration to be extremely watchful so that the situation is contained.
“We informed the governor of the situation at Telinipara and similar incidents in Malda. People are already under stress in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Now they and their properties are attacked by a certain group,” Hooghly MP Locket Chatterjee said.
Alleging that police did not allow her to visit the area, Chatterjee said she will inform the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Lok Sabha Speaker about this.
“Police is not taking action against the hooligans at the behest of local TMC leaders. However, they are stopping elected representatives to visit the affected people,” she alleged while talking to reporters after meeting the governor.
BJP MP Khagen Murmu was not allowed by police to visit a village of Harishchandrapur in Malda district on Tuesday.
On Sunday, people of two villages of Harishchandrapur clashed after residents of one erected barricades to seal the locality saying people tested positive for coronavirus in the other.
BJP leader Mukul Roy, who was a member of the delegation that met the governor, said Dhankhar was also apprised of the attack on police at Baruipur which, he alleged, showed how hooligans sheltered by the ruling party are creating lawlessness in the state.
“This government has been engaged in vote bank politics and not performing its administrative role properly. For this very reason, they shunted out an efficient bureaucrat like Vivek Kumar to hide the failure of the chief minister who looks after the health department,” Roy claimed.
Days after a row over the state’s COVID-19 data, Health Secretary Vivek Kumar was on Tuesday shifted to the environment department.
Roy alleged that the TMC government is hiding COVID-19 figures and not keen on bringing back migrant labourers who are stranded outside the state because of the lockdown.