At least 60 people were arrested after a wave of fresh violence in the industrial district of Howrah, parts of Murshidabad district and South 24 Parganas, as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee vowed to take strict action against those attempting to instigate riots in the state.
Police chiefs were shunted out to bring in officers with tough reputations into areas scarred by violence since Friday and the Pirzada of Furfura Sharif, a cleric with political ambitions was served a notice Saturday by the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR) Saturday for using children in violent demonstrations.
Suspension of internet services which had been clamped since Friday on Howrah district was extended to parts of Murshidabad district too Saturday.
The violent demonstrations and protests are targeted against comments by suspended BJP leader spokespersons on Prophet Mohammad.
At least 60 people were arrested and booked under IPC sections that deal with rioting, attempt to murder and causing damage to public properties, among others, in connection with violence in West Bengal's Howrah district, police said on Saturday.
Widespread violence broke out in Howrah district on Friday over inflammatory comments by now-suspended BJP functionaries Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal.
Fresh violence was reported in Panchla Bazaar area in West Bengal's Howrah district on Saturday as protesters clashed with the police and several houses were set on fire, a senior officer said.
Protesters pelted policemen with stones, injuring some of them, and also vandalised a BJP party office.
Several fire tenders were pressed into service as police lobbed tear gas shells to disperse protesters, the officer said, adding the situation was "under control" at the moment.
"The agitators have been dispersed. Some policemen have been injured in the stone-pelting. We are conducting a route march in the area. The situation is under control," he said.
The West Bengal government on Saturday also suspended internet services in parts of Murshidabad district till June 14 to stop the spread of misinformation following violence in Howrah, where such a clampdown is already in force.
This followed the arrest of a college girl in Murshidabad district's Beldanga as well as violent protests and arson in the area. The girl was arrested for allegedly putting up a post on her social networking site supporting the views of the now suspended BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma on Prophet Mohammed, police said.
Protesters demanding her arrest, clashed with Police and attacked the girl's house as well as several others in the area.
Internet services have been suspended in Beldanga 1 block covering Beldanga Police Station area and Beldanga 2 block covering Rejinagar and Shaktipur Police Station areas till 6 AM on June 14, an order stated.
Internet services have already been suspended in the entire Howrah district till June 13 and Section 144 of CrPC has been imposed in several areas such as Uluberia, Domjur and Panchla till June 15.
Incidents of violence and protests were reported from South 24 Parganas district's Kulpi. Protesters attacked MLA Jogaranjan Halder's vehicle near Amtala, police said.
Banerjee in a tweet on Saturday claimed that some political parties were behind the violent incidents that rocked Howrah district and promised to take strict action against those attempting to instigate riots in the state.
She also questioned why common people should suffer on account of a "sin" committed by the BJP, in reference to controversial remarks by suspended and expelled saffron party leaders on Prophet Mohammad which triggered the violent protests.
"As I have said before, normal life has been affected by violent incidents in Howrah over the last two days. Some political parties are behind this they want to instigate riots. But this won't be tolerated and strict action will be taken against those involved. Why should common people suffer because of sin committed by BJP," Banerjee tweeted in Bengali.
Following the violence, the state government replaced the Superintendent of Police of Rural Howrah, and the Commissioner of Police of Howrah City.
Praveen Tripathi, Additional CP of Kolkata Police, was made the new Commissioner of Police of Howrah City. Swathi Bhangalia, DCP (South West) of Kolkata Police, was made the new SP of Rural Howrah.
The West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR) Saturday sent a show-cause notice Md Sanaullah Siddiqui, the Pirzada of Furfura Sharif, as it took suo motu cognisance of the videos on Facebook showing children participating in protests at Domjur in Howrah district where agitators pelted stones, set police vehicles on fire, damaged public property and clashed with police on Friday.
In its notice, the commission expressed concern over the issue and condemned placing children at risk and directed the superintendents of police of Howrah rural and Barasat police districts, Howrah police commissioner and district magistrates of Howrah and North 24 Parganas to enquire and take appropriate action against those involved in using children for demonstrations.
The protests kept the state's political cauldron on the boil as West Bengal BJP President Sukanta Majumdar and his supporters were arrested while trying to visit the violence-hit Howrah district where several saffron party offices were attacked, as the district was under prohibitory orders and gatherings of 5 or more people was banned there.
Majumdar and his companions were however later released.
Reacting to the violence West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Saturday expressed concern over the worsening law and order situation in the state and asked Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to deal sternly with lawbreakers.
BJP MP from West Bengal, Saumitra Khan, also wrote to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, demanding immediate deployment of central forces in violence-hit Howrah.
Reacting to the developments, TMC chief spokesperson Sukhendu Sekhar Ray however accused the Governor and the BJP leaders of making provocative statements on the issue.
"The Governor and the BJP leaders are making provocative statements. They are fanning violence," he said, wondering why Nupur Sharma had not been arrested as yet.