On April 5, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an advisory to all States on the maintenance of law and order ahead of the upcoming Hanuman Janmotsav on April 6. The Home Minister’s official statement said that “MHA has issued an advisory to all states in preparation for Hanuman Janmotsav. The Governments are encouraged to ensure the maintenance of law and order, peaceful observance of the festival, and monitoring of any factors that could disturb communal harmony in society”.
The development comes on the heels of clashes that erupted in West Bengal and neighbouring Bihar during Ram Navami celebrations. Incidents of violence, arson and stone pelting were reported in these two states around Ram Navami. The prohibitory orders under Section 144 were also enforced in some areas of West Bengal in the wake of the clashes.
Furthermore, the acting Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court had also ordered the deployment of central force personnel in some sensitive areas of West Bengal, ahead of Hanuman Janmotsav. The Court directed the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal Government to request the assistance of paramilitary forces in the interest of maintaining law and order.
The Court was hearing a plea filed by West Bengal Assembly’s Leader of Opposition and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Suvendu Adhikari. Suvendu Adhikari’s PIL seeks a probe from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) or Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the incidents of violence that occurred during the Ram Navami procession. Furthermore, the PIL seeks the deployment of Central Armed Forces in the violence-affected districts (Howrah and Uttar Dinajpur) to prevent an untoward incident.
The PIL alleged that the Mamata Banerjee Government has failed to protect its citizens, claiming that the attack on Shobha Yatra participants was state-sponsored and there has been a complete deterioration of the law and order situation in West Bengal.
The Court said, “We have directed the State to make request for deployment of paramilitary forces, the concerned authority of the Central Government shall take expeditious steps in deploying such force since the festival is to be celebrated tomorrow (i.e. 6th April, 2023),” to prevent violent incidents on Hanuman Janmotsav.
The Court noted, “Thus, what is to be highlighted is that “prevention is better than cure”. Therefore, the State police are required to take all steps with the assistance of the paramilitary force or any other central force to prevent any untoward incident so that public are not put to jeopardy. The above directions shall be scrupulously complied with.”
The Suvendu Adhikari’s counsel submitted that “in Rishra where rioting took place, stones were pelted from roof tops of the building.” In view of the petitioner’s submission, the Court noted, “Had the intelligence wing of the police department been little more vigilant, such pre-planned attack could have been easily been avoided. Therefore, the intelligence wing of State Police shall take all steps be taken to avoid any such pre-planned attacks or violence.” Furthermore, the Court directed that the action taken report is submitted during the next hearing.
Central Forces Deployed in West Bengal
In compliance with the Calcutta High Court’s order, the Mamata Banerjee Government sought three companies of central armed forces to assist the West Bengal Police in maintaining the law and order situation and preventing violent incidents.
The MHA spokesperson tweeted that the Central Armed Police Forces have been deployed in West Bengal. The spokesperson said, “Central Armed Police Forces deployed in West Bengal to assist state police in maintaining law and order during observance of Hanuman Janmotsav.”
Trinamool Congress Chairperson and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “Tomorrow is Hanuman Janmotsav. I will urge everybody to celebrate it peacefully. Bengal is the land of peace,” after the Court’s order.
While the BJP’s National Vice President Dilip Ghosh said, “The central forces will definitely help restore peace,” welcoming the Court’s order and claiming it was a setback for the Mamata Banerjee Government.
(with inputs from ANI)