BJP workers clash with cops in city, several injured

BJP workers clash with cops in city, several injured Kolkata, Nov 13 (PTI) Several BJP workers and policepersonnel on Wednesday sustained injuries during clashes,which broke out between the two sides when the saffron partytook out a rally here to protest the spurt in dengue cases.

The BJP leadership claimed that the Mamata Banerjeegovernment had failed to tackle the dengue menace and weretrying to 'hush up' the figures to avoid criticism.

At least 35 BJP leaders and workers were eitherarrested or detained during the clash and around 60 members ofthe saffron camp taken to hospital with injuries, a seniorpolice officer said.

Among those apprehended were BJP state generalsecretary Raju Banerjee, party leader Badsha Alam andBharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) state unit presidentDebjit Sarkar, he said.

Actress Rimjhim Mitra, who recently joined the saffroncamp, was also detained by police, the officer said.

The protest march, convened by the BJYM, was taken outfrom Central Avenue in the city and was scheduled to culminateat Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) headquarters in NewMarket area, with the gherao of the civic office.

Police, however, had put up a barricade near ChandniChowk metro station to stop the rally.

According to police sources, the officers hadinitially tried to pacify the saffron party activists, askingthem to go back. The BJP supporters, however, defied thediktat and moved ahead.

When they were stopped from going past the barricade,the protesters threw water bottles and stones at the policepersonnel, the sources claimed.

In retaliation, police baton-charged the agitators andused water cannon to dispel the crowd, the sources added.

The BJYM state president claimed that the baton chargewas 'completely unprovoked'.

'The BJYM activists were beaten up mercilessly justfor protesting against the Mamata Banerjee government'sfailure to tackle dengue. The baton charge was completelyunprovoked,' Sarkar maintained.

West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh said the stategovernment was averse to democratic protests.

'When a small-scale democratic protest, such as theone organized today, is stopped with lathis and water cannon,it becomes apparent that the government is shaky. If needed,we will launch statewide violent protests,' Ghosh said.

'The government is suppressing facts and figures aboutthe dengue menace. Hiding truth will not solve the problem.

The state government should take the Centre's help to combatthe vector-borne disease because people are living in fear,'the BJP state unit chief added.

Wednesday's rally in the city was attended by over2,000 BJP and BJYM workers, according to party sources.

Denying the saffron camp allegations, Kolkata mayorFirhad Hakim said the BJP was politicizing the issue, but thepeople of Bengal know the truth.

'The BJP is only trying to create an issue out ofnon-issue. The people of Bengal know the real situation. Thesaffron party has failed to perform in states where they arein power but wouldn't get tired of lecturing us,' Hakim added.

As many as 44,852 dengue cases have been reported fromKolkata and its adjoining areas, a report of the state healthdepartment has revealed.

A government official said 25 people have died ofdengue in the state since January. PTI PNTRMS RMS