Roadways near the landmark Howrah Station transformed into a battle zone on September 13, as Kolkata Police sought to obstruct the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ‘Nabanna Cholo’ protest march. The party scheduled a protest march to ‘Nabanna’, the state administrative building. The march was organised to express opposition to the current All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) administration in West Bengal, led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
For supporters to attend the protest in Kolkata on Tuesday, the BJP had organised seven trains, three from northern Bengal and four from the southern part. According to party members, police stopped buses carrying BJP workers to Kolkata in North 24 Parganas. A large number of protesters crossed the Ganga river in boats and joined the protest march in Howrah. Reportedly, the protesters brought in by special trains and boats turned violent after clashes with security officials.
West Bengal Police retaliated with water cannons, tear gas shells, and lathi charges against the protesters who threw stones at them. Traffic on Howrah Bridge came to a halt as the protest march disrupted all normal movement. Following this, a number of BJP leaders and supporters from Hastings, in Kolkata, were detained by the police during the rally.
After police officials prevented hundreds of protesters from passing through to reach ‘Nabanna’, BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar and party leader Agnimitra Paul staged a sit-in dharna at Howrah Maidan. Suvendu Adhikari, Locket Chatterjee, and Majumdar were among the many BJP leaders detained by the police. Adhikari, the leader of the opposition in West Bengal Assembly, said that Mamata Banerjee has “turned West Bengal into North Korea”. “Chief Minister Mamata does not have the support of her people and so she is enforcing dictatorship, similar to North Korea, in Bengal. The police will have to pay for what it is doing. The BJP is coming,” he forewarned.
Police vehicles were set on fire after violent clashes erupted between cops and protesters in Kolkata. A number of protesters and police officials were reported injured in the rioting. In an effort to prevent the agitators from approaching the state secretariat, the police fired tear gas and water cannons at them. Both protesters and police officials were seen rushing for shelter. Some protesters also tried to go past the barricades that were put in place at several points in the city and adjoining areas. A protester set a police vehicle ablaze in Lalbazar, and stones were pelted at police officials in Santragachi. MG Road and Howrah areas both endured similar scenes of clashes between protesters and police. Earlier in the day, a confrontation erupted between BJP workers and police outside the Raniganj Railway Station as staff members prepared to march to Kolkata. Reportedly, the police detained them in Raniganj, as a precaution.
The BJP has claimed that 1235 of its party workers were arrested during the protest, and over 200 members were injured, out of whom three were critically injured.
The Calcutta High Court has ordered the West Bengal home secretary to submit a report on the BJP Nabanna Cholo March, which must be filed by September 19. The HC further directed that no one should be illegally detained, and that no public property should be damaged. Kolkata’s borders have now been barred off with strong security to prevent the parade, and many roads have been blocked. Huge barriers have been built in Howrah in preparation for the BJP’s march. To halt the march, the West Bengal Police have turned the 5-kilometre radius around Nabanna into a fortress.