KOLKATA: The West Bengal government has refused permission for the Bharatiya Janata Party to conduct its proposed Rath Yatra, citing intelligence reports of possible communal violence. In a letter sent to state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh, the Mamata Banerjee-led government said it was unable to allow the yatra as proposed by the party. In the letter, the government said intelligence reports indicated that “in several districts, organisations with overtly communal agenda, such as the RSS, the Bajrang Dal and the VHP, would actively join the yatra. There is a grave apprehension of major breach of peace... during and after the yatra.”
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya reacted to the move, criticising the Trinamool Congress government's decision. Calling the decision “totally undemocratic”, he said his party would move a higher court against it. The BJP had proposed to conduct three rath yatras in different parts of the state ahead of the Lok Sabha election. The BJP has now moved a division bench of the Calcutta High Court after a single-judge bench of Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty refused permission to the party to hold the yatra.
The bench had then directed the West Bengal chief secretary, the home secretary and the director general of police to hold a meeting with three representatives of the BJP by December 12, and take a decision on the rath yatra. Following the meeting between both sides, state government officials had told the BJP that the decision will be conveyed to them by Saturday. In the letter, the West Bengal government said, “The areas proposed to be covered by the yatra are, because of publicity and propaganda, gradually turning into communally sensitive pockets. Intelligence reports indicate that public perception is that the religious overtones of the yatra will be turned into communal propaganda.”
The government has mentioned that intelligence inputs were obtained from district magistrates, commissioners of police, superintendents of police and the assessment of the Intelligence Bureau on the routes proposed by the BJP for the yatra. It said a large number of convoys in the yatra would create a chaotic situation and cause traffic disruption on arterial roads and highways. “Furthermore, during the period cited, major festivals and events are scheduled, and it required a heavy deployment of the resources of the government, including the police force,” the letter read.
According to the yatra schedule submitted by the BJP, there were plans to hold 158 meetings across West Bengal and the three segments of yatra would cover religious sites. The yatras would continue simultaneously for at least 34 days. The rath yatras were to cover all the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies of West Bengal.