NEW DELHI: Union law minister
Ravi Shankar Prasad
on Thursday said the West Bengal government is creating an atmosphere of fear and muzzling opposition voice, even as people in the state yearned for a change.
"We will bring about a change in Bengal. The BJP assures the people of Bengal that the party will continue to speak up for the citizens' democratic rights peacefully," the Union minister said during a press conference in New Delhi
In the media briefing, Prasad strongly condemned the "barbaric treatment by the West Bengal police" of the BJP workers during today's "March to Nabanna", the state secretariat. The minister said that BJP doesn't believe in violence, but that peaceful protest is "our right".
The Yuva Morcha of
West Bengal BJP
organised a massive rally in the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah against the recent killings of its workers and leaders, the latest being the murder of Titagarh Councillor Manish Shukla.
He was gunned down in front of Titagarh police station in North 24 Parganas district, said Prasad, adding a few days ago Shukla had expressed apprehensions fearing for his life, in a video.
"To protest these recent political killings in Bengal, around one lakh BJP members took out the march, Nabanna Cholo. But police used barbaric force with lathi-charge and water cannons to stop them, because of which 1,500 workers were injured."
The march took a violent turn after the party workers allegedly hurled bombs and bricks at policemen. The police, in turn, resorted to using water cannons and fired tear gas shells, besides lathi charging the workers, to disperse the crowd.
Among the injured were many senior leaders like national secretary Arvind Menon, state vice-president Raju Banerjee who had to be hospitalised, north Kolkata president Shivaji Sinha Roy who was hit on the head and youth wing president Tejasvi Surya who was manhandled, said the law minister. "There were many women who were misbehaved with. I was told that the water sprayed on the BJP march was laced with chemicals because many started vomiting."
"We want to humbly tell (Chief Minister) Mamataji (Banerjee) and the West Bengal government that if you think that you can stop the BJP by baton and barbaric police force, you won't be successful. The BJP strongly condemns this barbaric treatment by the Bengal police of senior leaders of the party," he added.
Recalling last year's Lok Sabha elections, he said the ruling Trinamool Congress (
) had tried this before. "But we won 18 seats in Bengal. The grassroots reality is telling us that the BJP will form the government whenever there are Assembly elections."
Ravi Shankar Prasad also lashed out at chief minister
, whom he alleged was "losing political foothold" in the state.
"In your state, people are arrested even for making cartoons (referring to the arrest of a Jadavpur University professor in 2012), if somebody opposes you, he or she gets killed. The reason is clear: it's because the TMC and Mamata are losing political foothold," he said.
The Union minister also did not refrain from attacking other opposition parties in the state. "Most surprising is that the party that started such violence, CPM, they are also getting the beating, but they are quiet; and it is better to speak least about the Congress. They have almost lost their existence in the state."
On allegations that the BJP workers in today's protest were armed, Prasad said that it was the version of the state government. "I have nothing more to say, except that hundreds of BJP workers were killed in the last two-three years, how many people have been put on trial," he threw a counter-question.
Prasad compared the state of affairs with Uttar Pradesh when a media person questioned him about Hathras.
"I will just say the UP chief minister formed an SIT soon (after the death of the Hathras assault victim), gave orders for CBI inquiry and the solicitor general pleaded in the Supreme Court that an SC judge can monitor the probe. How fairer can a government be? On the other side (in West Bengal), no action is taken whether it's a scam or murder. This is clear that opposition voice is being muzzled there under the shadow of fear."
Asked about the COVID-19 protocol to avoid mass gathering, he again asked a question in reply to the concerned media personnel. "The COVID (protocol) also requires that the opposition party leaders shouldn't be killed and that too in front of a police station. If COVID is a problem, did it stop Mamataji from taking out a march against Hathras," he said.