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regular-article-logo Monday, 20 May 2024

Election Commission of India asks security forces to be vigilant in Bengal during Ram Navami on April 17

DGP and ADG (law and order) have been directed to ensure all necessary arrangements to normalise situation during Ram Navami celebrations across state

Saibal Gupta Calcutta Published 14.04.24, 10:07 AM
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The Election Commission of India has asked security forces to be vigilant in Bengal to prevent untoward incidents during Ram Navami celebrations on April 17 which will be just two days before the first phase of the Lok Sabha polls.

The commission wants the forces to remain alert next week, particularly because communal clashes rocked several pockets of the state, including Howrah, Hooghly, Asansol and Raiganj, during Ram Navami celebrations in the past few years.

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The commission said police and paramilitary forces which had arrived in the state for the polls should give special attention to places with a history of unrest. The DGP and the ADG (law and order) have been directed to ensure all necessary arrangements to normalise the situation during Ram Navami celebrations across the state.

“At present, we have 277 companies of central forces in the state and we have asked all DEOs (district election officers) and SPs to use them at the optimum level. The central forces will be assisted by the police to maintain law and order,” a senior official in the office of the chief electoral officer (CEO) said.

The official said there would be a major concentration of the central forces in three districts which would go to the polls on April 19.

Communal clashes synchronised with Ram Navami ever since the Sangh parivar started celebrating the occasion in Bengal in 2018.

In a separate meeting with the DEOs and the SPs of Cooch Behar, Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri and the Siliguri police commissioner on Saturday morning, EC officials asked them to make a detailed deployment plan by Sunday evening so that the central and the state forces could be effectively used to contain any kind of law and order problems.

“The people who want to take out Ram Navami processions will have to give a detailed route map, time frame and the approximate number of participants to police stations concerned at least 24 hours before so that we can deploy adequate forces in those particular areas. No procession will be allowed without prior permission of the police,” the official in the CEO's office said.

The over-cautious attitude of the EC — that at present holds control of the law and order after the announcement of the polls — stems from the fact that the saffron ecosystem is trying to capitalise on the consecration of the Ram temple at Ayodhya by organising celebratory events at over 5,000 locations across the state from April 9 to 17.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has been entrusted with the task of coordinating these events. Additionally, the Sangh parivar plans to follow up with Hanuman Jayanti celebrations around April 23-24.

The political heat around Ram Navami has already started growing with BJP leader and candidate from the Burdwan-Durgapur Lok Sabha seat, Dilip Ghosh, warning the administration to refrain from instigating trouble without cause. He cautioned that the people would respond firmly if such incidents occurred.

A few days ago, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had expressed apprehensions about disruptions during Ram Navami. She asked the people to remain vigilant and advised them against falling into the BJP's alleged traps.

Members of the civil society met chief electoral officer Aariz Aftab on Saturday and asked him to make arrangements to ensure that there would be no law-and-order problems during the Ram Navami celebrations.

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