Violence erupted at Siliguri in north Bengal Monday afternoon after BJP workers protesting Trinamool Congress “misrule” clashed with police outside the secretariat complex.
Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh claimed a party worker – 50-year-old Ulen Roy from Jalpaiguri district – was killed in gunfire and has called for a 12-hour bandh in north Bengal tomorrow. Police said one person had been reported dead, but added they did not open fire.
The body is being sent for a post mortem.
Mr Ghosh claimed Ulen Roy was perhaps the victim of a “Nandigram style operation”, in which the alleged killers sheltered behind police as they opened fire. Tejasvi Surya, the firebrand Karnataka MP who flew in for today’s march, alleged: “Trinamool goons sheltered by police hurled bombs.”
Visuals from the scene resembled a war zone, with plumes of smoke rising into the air as protestors set police barricades (made of bamboo) and rubber tires on fire. Police in riot gear initially deployed water canons to push back protestors and then fired tear gas shells.
The police also said protesters resorted to arson and brick-batting, and opened fire.
Senior BJP leaders met Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar in Kolkata this evening to discuss the incident.
Meanwhile, Trinamool MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar lashed out at the BJP for “sacrificing the life of a party worker for publicity”. “Every loss of life is sad,” Ms Ghosh Dastidar said, accusing the BJP of “guns-and-goons politics”.
“We were protesting peacefully. We are not scared of guns, lathis or bombs. We are ready to die to protect Bengal,” BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who led one of today’s marches, said, declaring it was time for President’s Rule in Bengal.
Bengal BJP later tweeted a 15-second video of the body of a man – allegedly Ulen Roy – lying in what appears to be a hospital bed. As the video plays out, the pink sheet covering the body is pulled down to the waist to reveal what Mr Ghosh claimed were “pellet wounds”.
Mamata Banerjee, who earlier today held a rally in West Midnapur district in support of the farmers protesting against the centre’s new farm laws, has yet to respond. At the rally she slammed the BJP as a party of “outsiders” and urged people to stop them taking control of Bengal.
The violence in Siliguri comes with just months to go for Assembly elections, in which the BJP has made no secret of its plan to remove Ms Banerjee and the Trinamool from power.
With that goal in mind, north Bengal is fertile ground. In the 2019 Lok Sabha election the BJP made significant inroads, winning seven of eight seats and will hope for a similar result in state polls.
The region has 54 Assembly seats and the Trinamool is not well-entrenched there. Last month senior MLA Mihir Goswami quit and joined the BJP.
With input from PTI