Central Troops Patrol West Bengal’s Basirhat, Hit By Communal Riots

Kolkata: A burnt motorcycle lies bang in the middle of the road as you enter Basirhat, a town 100 km from Kolkata, that has borne the brunt of communal clashes that erupted on Monday, peaked on Tuesday and simmered to a very uneasy calm today after the BSF began patrolling the area. 

Not a soul in sight near the carcass of the motorcycle, finally a man peeked out from over his balcony wall and whispered that the bike was burnt just one hour ago. Suman Ganguly said, "Hindu and Muslim boys clashed and set this bike on fire. "

Late last week, a Hindu teenager posted an offensive post about the Prophet Mohammed on Facebook. He has been arrested, but served as the trigger for a long cycle of arson and violence.

About 400 jawans from the Border Security Force or BSF rushed to assist the local police in its attempt to restore calm. Large clashes were avoided for the first time since midnight.

But attacks continued. Vehicles were set on fire again, bombs were thrown and some roads remain totally cut off by large groups of both communities.

The violence swept through Baduria, Basirhat, Haroa, Swarupnagar and Deganga.

"If the administration had come earlier, things would have been better," said Sheikh Matin, a local religious leader. "We appeal for calm, those who did this are neither true Hindu nor true Muslim."
Suman, a resident, said the events of the last few days are "absolutely shocking" and added "we condemn this, the law should have taken its course. "

The ruling Trinamool Congress says a 17-year-old did not act alone - what motive could he have, they ask, for an offensive Facebook meme?

"Who provoked this boy to put this post? They selected a juvenile, because they know he will get away with it," said Hassan Ahmed Imran, Rajya Sabha MP.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also blamed the BJP and fringe groups for the violence. The BJP, on the other hand, says the situation is a fallout of her uninhibited appeasement of the Muslim community which supports her party.

There are some political observers who say that of late, the Chief Minister, aware that she has alienated sections of Hindus, has become less visible at Muslim functions. They point out that she appeared just days ago at a rath yatra for Lord Jagannath in Kolkata.

But they also say that the BJP is trying to instigate communal tension, citing, as an example, a video tweeted today by UP minister Sidharth Nath Singh of Bashirhat.

Efforts to trace the parents of the 17-year-old boy who started it all drew a blank. They have fled their house for now.


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