Kolkata, June 12 (IANS) Hundreds of BJP activists on Wednesday marched towards the Kolkata Police headquarters in Lalbazar, only to be stunted midway by the police who fired water cannons and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the mob.
Amid heightened security arrangements, the saffron party workers, led by leaders such as BJP national General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, state party chief Dilip Ghosh, MP S.S. Ahluwalia and senior leader Mukul Roy, started the "mega condemnation march" to Lalbazar.
The protest march was organised against the alleged killing of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers and the breakdown of the law and order situation in the state.
A number saffron party leaders and activists, including BJP state General Secretary Raju Banerjee, took ill after tear gas shells landed near them.
The BJP claimed that 50 of their activists were arrested by the police before being released. The party also accused the Mamata Banerjee administration of throttling their democratic protest.
"We were conducting the march peacefully but the police used water cannons on us and lobbed tear gas shells without any provocation. Mamata Banerjee is throttling the democratic space in Bengal. There is a complete breakdown of the law and order situation here," state BJP President Dilip Ghosh said.
"Many of our leaders have taken ill due to tear gas shelling. As many as 50 party workers were arrested by the police, who were released later. We are ending our protest programme for the day, but our agitation against the Mamata Banerjee-led government would continue," Ghosh added.
The police, however, said that five BJP Mahila Morcha (women's wing) members have been arrested.
"We cannot provide the exact figure yet. However, five women BJP supporters have been arrested for demonstrating outside Lalbazar where Section 144 of the CrPC has been imposed," Javed Shamim, Joint Commissioner of Kolkata Police, told IANS.
The agitators started the rally from central Kolkata's Subodh Mullick Square at around 1.30 p.m. and broke a barricade in Ganesh Chandra Avenue, about 200 metre from the entry gate of Lalbazar. The police fired two water cannons to disperse the crowd.
Parts of Central Avenue resembled a war zone with Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel lobbying tear gas shells and resorting to minor lathi charge to stop the protesters from re-organising the rally.
Several BJP leaders and activists sat on the street to demonstrate against the police action.
"We will continue our protest in a peaceful manner. The streets of Kolkata do not belong to Mamata Banerjee alone. She cannot throttle a democratic movement by using her police force," state BJP leader Jay Prakash Majumdar said.
Vijayvargiya also condemned the role of Chief Minister Banerjee and said that the days of the Bengal government were numbered.
"The police used brutal force to stop us from going to Lalbazar, but our workers acted in a disciplined and peaceful manner. I want to say that today the BJP has won, and the Trinamool has lost," BJP leader Rahul Sinha said.