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Malda simmers as police, mob clash; But everyone has a different story to tell

Namit Hans | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 3:59 IST

The Kaliachak police station in Malda, West Bengal, was set on fire by an angry mob on 3 January. The crowd was protesting Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari's remarks on Prophet Mohammed in December 2015.

The situation turned violent after a local Muslim organisation called for a rally on the National Highway 34 on 3 January. According to an Indian Express report, the violence began when the protestors on the highway got into an argument with a bus driver who was trying to pass. The angry mob set the bus ablaze - after the passengers disembarked - and later attacked a BSF vehicle.

According to reports, a 24-year-old man suffered injuries after he was hit by a bullet.

The police reported that around 40 vehicles - including a dozen private ones - were set ablaze. The Kaliachak police station was ransacked and set on fire. Kaliachak police station inspector-in-charge, Subhrata Ghosh, and other police officials who were present at the scene escaped unharmed.

Most shops and schools remained shut on 4 January. According to sources, police raided the area on 5 January and arrested 10 people - who are accused of perpetrating the violence.

The contrasting stories

Sanjay Pandey, a resident of Rajmahal in Jharkhand, posted on Facebook:

"This is scary to me because the place is just across the Ganges river from my hometown. The cops were not allowed to lathicharge the unruly mob, all the documents were gutted, boundary wall of the police station was flattened and a small temple on the premises was also damaged". (sic)

Pandey told Catch that the mob might have set the police station ablaze with the intention of destroying all criminal records. He also said that the area was notorious for its counterfeit goods.

Some residents alleged that the local Bengali dailies completely ignored the incident, and failed to report it.

However, another Malda resident told Catch that the violence was unintentional and that the mob only grew violent after rumours of police firing spread among the crowd. He said that religious leaders would soon meet the victims of the violence. "The organisation members will cooperate with the police in making sure that whoever is responsible for it gets punishment. The members will go and meet the victims," he said.

What led to the protests?

On 3 December 2015, Kamlesh Tiwari - who claims to be the working president of the Hindu Mahasabha - called Prophet Mohammad a homosexual. His remarks were meant as a retort to Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, who had called RSS members homosexuals.

The exchange sparked outrage. According to reports, over one lakh Muslims gathered in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh to demand death penalty for Tiwari.

A case was filed against Tiwari under IPC sections 153-A (promoting enmity between groups on ground of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) at Naka Hindola police station in Lucknow.

First published: 5 January 2016, 4:40 IST
Namit Hans @HansNamit

Namit works as a sub-editor at the Speed News desk. He is an economics graduate who stumbled into social work after college. His interest in social issues and desire to write sensitising stories led him to journalism. In his free time, he mostly reads about religion and mythology.