Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Thursday granted permitted to Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ‘rath yatra’ rallies in West Bengal, setting aside the state government’s refusal on apprehensions of communal unrest. The saffron party will hold rallies across the state from January 21 to February 5.
Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty directed the state BJP to inform the superintendents of police of the districts, in which the rallies shall enter, at least 12 hours ahead of schedule.
The party was also directed to ensure that the ‘Yatras’ are conducted abiding by the law and shall not impede normal movement of vehicular traffic.
Justice Chakraborty said that the petitioner BJP will be vicariously responsible for any damage or loss of public property. He also directed that the police shall deploy adequate force to ensure that there is no breach of law and order.
The West Bengal government had told the court on Wednesday that intelligence reports expressing apprehensions of breach of communal harmony were the reason for denial of permission to BJP’s ‘rath yatra’ rallies in the state.
Countering the state government’s stand, BJP counsel S K Kapoor alleged that the denial of permission was pre-determined and without any basis, adding that “in the worst days of the British period Mahatma Gandhi held the Dandi March and nobody stopped him” but “now the government here says it won’t allow a political procession”.
BJP president Amit Shah was scheduled to flag off three chariots from different parts of the state. The chariots were meant to travel across the state’s 42 parliamentary constituencies over the next one-and-a-half months before concluding in Kolkata, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was likely to address a rally.
The ‘Rath Yatra’ was scheduled to start from Cooch Behar district on December 7, but was stalled, following which the BJP had moved the high court.
A division bench of the Calcutta High Court had directed the state chief secretary, 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 rally by December 14.
After the meeting, the Mamata Banerjee-led government had on Saturday denied permission for the ‘Rath Yatra’ on the ground that it might cause communal tension before the coming Lok Sabha polls. BJP then again knocked on the Calcutta High Court’s door.
As part of its protest programme, the party had organised a rally in Arambagh area of Hooghly district on Monday. The BJP leaders have also threatened to organise a “law violation” campaign in the state if they are stopped from holding the protest rallies.