2016 Kaliachak riots
|Date||3 January 2016|
|Methods||Public demonstration and clashes|
Riots broke out in Kaliachak, Malda district in West Bengal, India on 3 January 2016 when a part of a protest rally attended by thousands of Muslims turned violent. The Muslims were protesting the remark of Kamlesh Tiwari, who claimed to be a Hindu Mahasabha leader, made on 3 December 2015 in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which allegedly made derogatory remarks against the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
A section of that protest rally turned violent when police and Border Security Force (BSF) confronted the protesters. Mob vandalized Kaliachak Police station, block development office and public property injuring 30 policemen. Several private and government vehicles including BSF and North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) vehicles were torched. The train service was disturbed as protesters blocked railway tracks at Khaltipur railway station.
Malda district of West Bengal has a mixed population comprising Hindus and Muslims. According to 2011 Census of India, Malda district is one of such districts in India which has Muslim population comparable to the Hindu population where in Kalichak block Muslim population shares the major proportion. This district also shares border with Indian state Bihar and Jharkhand, also an international border with Bangladesh. This place is considered to be a safe passage of illegal drug mafia as well as poppy traders.
Remarks on homosexuality
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) dating back to 1861, made homosexual sex punishable by law and carried a life sentence. In 2009, the High Court of Delhi found the law unconstitutional, effectively invalidating the ban. Four years later, on 11 December 2013, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court's decision, restoring the statute while leaving it to the Lok Sabha to amend the law. Since re-criminalisation, several politicians, including former External Affairs Minister Shashi Tharoor  and Bharatiya Janata Party Finance Minister Arun Jaitley opined in favour of legal decriminalisation.
Jaitley opinionated to reconsider judgement on homosexuality by Supreme Court on 28 November 2015 at Times Literature Festival in Mumbai. On 2 December, Azam Khan, a Muslim senior politician of the Samajwadi Party and a member of Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly, responded to Jaitley's speech by saying that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh members are homosexuals as they do not get married. The next day, Kamlesh Tiwari who claimed to be the working president of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha called Prophet Muhammad the first homosexual in the world. He was arrested in Lucknow on 3 December 2015. A case under IPC sections 153-A (promoting enmity between groups on ground of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) was registered against him at Naka Hindola police station, Lucknow. Protest rallies, against his statement, were held by several Islamic groups across the nation, most of them demanding death by hanging.
Protests and violence
Idara-e-Shariya and Anjuman Ahle Sunnatul Jamat, a Muslim organisation had held a protest gathering with prior permissions from concerned authorities in Kaliachak on 3 January 2016 demanding death by hanging of Tiwari which was attended by 30,000 to 2.5 lakh Muslims. A set of people from the protest rally turned violent and vandalized Kaliachak Police station, block development office and public property. Several private and government vehicles including Border Security Force (BSF) vehicles were torched. An NBSTC bus was also torched on National Highway 34 leaving several vehicles stranded on the highway. Over 30 people including police officers were injured. The train service was disturbed as protesters blocked railway tracks at Khaltipur railway station. When police stopped protesters, the riot broke out. According to some news reports, Shani Temple, Durga Temple and other Hindu temples were attacked at Baliadanga and around 25 houses and shops owned by both Hindus and Muslims were vandalized.
Kaliachak, a place near an international border, is considered as a passage of mafia and anti-socials of the neighboring states, and has become a depot of many anti-social activities. Crimes like keeping illegal arms, cultivation of poppy, dealing of fake note, illegal drag trafficking are rapidly growing in this region. According to some news reports, taking the scope of religious outrage local goons who had criminal cases against them attacked the police station to destroy the evidences against them.
Police had to fire 40 rounds in the blank in an attempt to control the mobs. Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel were deployed to control the situation. RSS activist Gopal Tiwari was injured in firing. After the violence, police have put in restrictions on people assembling by invoking section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure. Ten members of a BJP delegation led by sole party MLA of the state Samik Bhattacharya was stopped near Rathbari area as their appearance might fuel the agitation. The members arrested by the police were later released. Also three member fact finding team of BJP led by MP S. S. Ahluwalia was also deported from the Malda station.
The Malda chapter of the civil rights organisation, Association for Democratic Rights (APDR), has issued a statement that last Sunday's incident cannot be called "communal by a long shot." Malda district secretary of APDR, Jishnu Roy Chowdhury, has blamed miscreants for "triggering" unprecedented violence, which is "a symptom of lawlessness in the State."
Clash of Poppy mafia and Police
According to some news reports, illegal poppy cultivation and dealings are rampant in and around Kaliachak. Police and administration planned to destroy all the illegal cultivation of poppy fields, a part has already been done as well. It is suspected that poppy mafia are involved in this clash during the protest of the Muslims. According to police about 1500 acre poppy field has been destroyed by the administration the previous week.
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