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West Bengal's Basirhat, a town about 100 km from Kolkata, has been barricaded to keep out political parties after fresh violence yesterday that saw angry people out on the streets blocking roads, burning tyres and throwing stones at police vehicles till late in the night.
There are very few people out today amid prohibitory orders and shops are shut. The police stopped a team of Left leaders about 50 km away from Basirhat this morning.
The BJP and Congress too have said their leaders will go to Basirhat today to appeal for calm and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has requested them to keep away, promising that no leader from her Trinamool Congress will go there either.
Basirhat has remained relatively calm since Thursday morning, but erupted again late afternoon after the police used batons on angry crowds who alleged that cops were detaining only Hindu youth for the last three days since riots began.
The area's legislator Dibyendu Biswas, of the ruling Trinamool Congress, was present during the detentions and locals alleged that he pointed out Hindu homes to the police to be searched. On the main Basirhat road, groups of people stopped and searched cars for the MLA, who had to flee the town with police help and has now been summoned by his party to explain his alleged actions.
Angry groups set up road blocks and burned truck tyres. Women came out on the streets with brooms and sticks in their hands. Mobs stoned police vehicles.
A three-member BJP team sent from Delhi by party chief Amit Shah was to have visited Basirhat today but has now rescheduled the trip for tomorrow. Local BJP leaders will attempt to go there, but are likely to be stopped, as will those from parties.
The violence began on Monday in Baduria, about 20 km from Basirhat, and spread to other towns in the North 24 Parganas district after a Facebook post by a 17-year-old about their Prophet angered Muslims. The teen was arrested and has been set to jail yesterday.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has blamed the BJP, the RSS and other fringe groups for the violence and accused senior leaders of provocative statements. She has also had heated exchanges with Governor Kesari Nath Tripathi, who she accused of insulting and humiliating her when he called her for an update on the tension.
The Governor has said Banerjee's allegations are an attempt to "emotionally blackmail the people of Bengal."