Around 2,000 people, who brought out a march over the death of a minor girl, attacked law enforcers with stones and bricks and chased them away before setting ablaze Kaliaganj police station in North Dinajpur on Tuesday.
Since Friday, the district has been witnessing intermittent violence. After a minor girl’s body was found, her family members alleged that she had been raped and murdered and demanded a CBI probe.
Sources said a section of people — Adivasis and Rajbanshis — had become agitated on Tuesday after the post-mortem concluded that the girl had died because of poisoning.
Security personnel posted in Kaliaganj on Tuesday. Kousik Sen
“Most residents didn’t buy the autopsy finding. They stuck to the charge that the girl had been raped and then murdered. They became angry and started marching to the local police station,” said a source.
Kaliaganj with a minority population of 49 per cent is 24km from here.
“As the police stopped the protesters near a barricade, the agitators pelted the law enforcers with bricks and stones. The police retaliated with batons, tear gas and stun grenades but they were outnumbered. We saw the law enforcers running away as the mob raided the police station. Soon, smoke and flames billowed out of the police station. I had never seen something like this in my life,” said a localresident who witnessed the attack.
A vehicle goes up in flames on the premises of Kaliaganj police station on Tuesday. Kousik Sen
The Kaliaganj police station has a combined strength of 100-odd personnel.
Several senior police officers this correspondent spoke to said although attacks on cops were not new in the district, Tuesday’s incident stood out as the mob chased away the law enforcers and then burnt down the police station.
The situation turned so critical that 300 extra personnel had to be brought in from other police stations.
By late Tuesday evening, the police detained around 25 people on charges of violence.
“It was a pre-planned attack. Seventeen police personnel were injured. We are conducting raids to round up the attackers and the arsonists. Patrolling is also going on in the town,” said Ajay Kumar, additional director general of police (north Bengal).
When the girl’s body had been found on Friday, local people raised protests and attacked the police. The mob was dispersed after the police resorted to baton-charge and used tear gas. The police somehow seized the body and sent it for post-mortem.
When the body was brought to her village the following day, there was a fresh spate of violence. The police brought the situation under control and clamped prohibitory orders.
“The police should have learnt a lesson from the recent incidents. Besides, the district has a history of police stations and vehicles being vandalised and torched,” said a retired police officer.
In July 2020, he said, a group of villagers in Chopra block of the district torched police vehicles and government buses on NH27 following the murder of a minor girl.
In 2015, the Ramganj police outpost of Islampur police station was ransacked and documents were set on fire.
In 2018, violence broke out at Daribhit near Islampur in North Dinajpur over the introduction of Urdu language at a school. Two youths died after being hit by bullets and the issue dominated the campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in which the BJP bagged Raiganj.
With panchayat polls round the corner and the Lok Sabha elections slated for next year, political parties didn’t waste any time to seize on Tuesday’s violence.
“The BJP has orchestrated the violence. Ever since the girl died, the party has been trying to reap political dividends. It is losing its support base and hence resorting to violence,” said Kanaialal Agarwala, the North Dinajpur district president of the Trinamul Congress.
Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, raised questions about the law and order in Bengal.
“If the state government had listened to the family’s demand for a CBI probe, Tuesday’s incident would not have happened. We do not support the attack on the police station and policemen. But I need to check whether the police attacked the peaceful protesters or the protesters attacked the police first. However, the incident proves that the law and order in Bengal is out of hand,” he said.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday took suo motu cognizance of media reports on the death of the minor girl in North Dinajpur. The NHRC issued notices to the chief secretary and the director general of police, Bengal, seeking a detailed report within six weeks.
The commission said it was shocking that the girl’s body had allegedly been dragged away by police in full public view.
The NHRC said the report should mention the action taken against the “responsible police personnel”, details and status of the investigation and compensation, if paid, to the next of kin of the deceased.
Additional reporting by our legal correspondent in New Delhi