Kolkata: Prohibitory orders remained in force and internet services suspended for the third day on Friday even as life was limping back to normal in Raniganj, the coal-belt extension of Bengal’s industrial town Asansol, which witnessed violent communal clashes during the last few days over Ram Navami processions on March 25.
On Friday evening, political leaders across the board, Imams, priests, police officers, and representatives of other religions attended a peace meeting at Niyamatpur in Burdwan district. The meeting ended with a pledge to maintain peace and harmony in the area. It was also decided that stern action would be taken against anyone found spreading communal rumors.
A peace prayer was also conducted for Maulana Imdadul Rashidi’s son, 16-year old Sibtulla Rashidi, who was found dead on Wednesday after he went missing following a clash in Asansol’s Rail Par area.
Setting an example of communal harmony, Rashidi appealed for peace and asked people not to indulge in violence in the name of religion. “I lost my son and I don’t want other parents to lose their loved ones,” the Maulana of Noorani Mosque said.
After the prayer meet, those present raised slogans like ‘Hindu-Muslim Bhai Bhai….Cholo Egiye Jai’ (Hindu-Muslims are brothers….let’s bury the hatchet and move forward).
Trinamool Congress leader and Mayor-in-Council (Minority Development), Mir Hashim, said, “I attended the peace meeting and it ended successfully. Whatever happened at Raniganj was unfortunate and we have decided to ignore instigating rumors in future. People across religions were present in the meeting and we all promised each other to live with peace and dignity.”
Asked about the scheduled visit of the BJP central team, Hashim said, “It is better they should not visit the area now. We feel that their visit could further flare up the situation. They should act sensibly.”
A four-member team of BJP’s parliamentary committee, comprising Om Mathur, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, Roopa Ganguly and BD Ram, will visit Raniganj and submit a report to party president Amit Shah.
BJP leader Pintu Verma, who was also present at the meeting, blamed a section of anti-socials for the clashes. The party’s district president Lakhsman Ghorai said, “It was a peaceful procession on Ram Navami. But suddenly a section of Trinamool Congress leaders instigated the crowd which led to the clash. I welcome today’s peace meeting and we will try our best to maintain peace.”
Shops, markets, banks, ATMs and schools were reopened in the area. Senior police officers led route marches in trouble-torn areas and appealed to the civilians to maintain peace and not pay heed to rumors.
Anuj Sharma, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order), said, “The situation is peaceful and public life is returning to normal.”
On Thursday, an FIR was registered against junior union minister and Asansol MP Babul Supriyo for violating Section 144 in the Asansol-Raniganj area when he tried to force his way into the region and allegedly manhandled a police officer after he was stopped.
Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, too, had requested the administration for a visit to Burdwan to meet senior police officer Arindam Dutta Chowdhury, who was hospitalised with critical burn and splinter injuries during the clashes on Monday. However, the state government stalled his request citing security reasons.