West Bengal govt denies permission to Amit Shah’s rath yatra over fear of communal tension

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Kolkata: The West Bengal government has denied permission to BJP president Amit Shah‘s proposed ‘rath yatra’ from Cooch Behar on grounds that it might cause communal tension, the state’s advocate general informed the Calcutta High Court on Thursday. Kishore Dutta told the court that the Cooch Behar superintendent of police refused permission for the BJP president’s rath yatra from Friday.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah is scheduled to kickstart the party’s ‘Save Democracy Rally’, comprising three ‘rath yatras’, in the state. The state government submitted that it might cause communal tension in the district.

Dutta said the district has a history of communal issues and that there was information that some communal provocators and rowdy elements had become active there. The SP’s refusal letter also noted that several top BJP leaders would come to Cooch behar, as also people from other states, stating that these may affect the communally sensitive district.

Stating that refusal of permission was an administrative decision in view of the ground situation, the AG said that details of apprehension cannot be spelt out in open court due to its sensitive nature and he can submit these to the court in a sealed cover, if directed.

The BJP, which moved the court seeking direction to the state government for giving permission for its three rallies, told the bench of Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty that it will hold peaceful yatras.

Asked by the judge as to who will take responsibility if anything untoward happens, BJP counsel Anindya Mitra submitted that the party will hold a peaceful rally, but that it was the duty of the state government to maintain law and order. Mitra submitted that the Constitution guarantees the right to hold political programmes. He said that assumption of untoward situation cannot be a ground for refusal.

Asked by the judge whether he was agreeable to deferment, the BJP counsel answered in the negative and said that it started preparations for long and had approached the administration for permission in October. He submitted that “it is only now that they have refused permission after sitting on the applications for long.”

The advocate general also opposed the BJP filing a supplementary affidavit opposing the refusal of permission, saying it can either come with a fresh petition or an amendment to his petition. The BJP campaign is scheduled to begin from Cooch Behar district in the north on December 7, from Kakdwip in the South 24 Parganas district on December 9, and from the Tarapith temple in Birbhum district on December 14.

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