Ranchi, September 8: Police used water cannons and resorted to lathicharge to disperse an unruly crowd of thousands of BJP supporters who were marching to the Jharkhand Vidhan Sabha on Wednesday to protest against Speaker Rabindra Nath Mahto’s decision to allocate a room for namaz within the assembly premises in Dhurwa.
There was commotion on the roads leading to the Assembly through the day. Despite prohibitory orders, in addition to the curbs on political procession in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, over 7,000 BJP workers joined the march forcing police to resort to lathicharge after a group of protestors broke a barricade near Jagannath temple, about 2km from the Assembly.
Before that, police used water cannons to try and disperse the crowd. But the BJP supporters turned even more violent and uprooted barricades, prompting cops to wield lathis.
Later, the BJP issued a statement claiming that at least a dozen of its supporters suffered serious injuries, while many others sustained injuries of varying degrees. The injured BJP supporters were admitted at Paras Hospital in Dhurwa.
Ranchi district administration defended the police action, pointing out that BJP did not take permission for such a large gathering. SDO Deepak Kumar Dubey said, “No one took any permission, especially when such things are banned as per Covid-19 norms. Thousands of BJP workers attempted to break the security barricades forcing police to use water cannons and resort to mild lathicharge. There are prohibitory orders in force around a radius of 750 meter from the Assembly.”
Around 12 noon, scores of party workers, drawn from all 24 districts of the state, assembled at Ranchi’s Harmu ground and began a 10km-long padhyatra towards the Assembly chanting “Jai Shree Ram”, “Har har mahadev” and shouting slogans against chief minister Hemant Soren.
A large posse of policemen were deployed on roads leading to the Assembly, but traffic went haywire due to the sheer number of protesters. Former chief minister Raghubar Das, state unit president Deepak Prakash, Ranchi MLA Sanjay Seth and several other leaders were part of the protest.
Around 2pm, protesters broke barricades near the Jagannathpur temple despite repeated pleas by police to maintain order. Police were left with no option but to use water canons and then resort to lathicharge to disperse the unruly crowd.
After that, several BJP leaders, including Das and Prakash, sat on dharna for hours, accusing the Hemant Soren government of attempting to muzzle democratic protest. BJP MLAs, led by its legislature party leader Babulal Marandi, also raised slogans against the government for the lathicharge and joined the dharna.
Prakash announced that the BJP would intensify its fight against the “unconstitutional” decision of the Assembly Speaker to “appease a particular community” at the behest of state government. “We are not going to sit silently no matter how many lathis the Hemant government uses on our workers. BJP will not allow the Assembly to be used for polarisation at any cost,” he said.
Former chief minister and BJP national vice-president Raghubar Das accompanied by Jamshedpur MP Bidyut Baran Mahato and Ranchi MP Sanjay Seth sat on a dharna outside the Assembly hall also condemned the Hemant government for using force against BJP protestors. “Our fight is not against any community or faith, but against the state government’s attempt to polarise people,” he said.