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Ram Navami riots in Bengal "pre-planned, orchestrated": Fact-finding Committee report

Kolkata: The six-member fact-finding Committee on alleged violation of human rights in West Bengal led by former Patna High Court Chief Justice Narsimha Reddy on Monday in its interim report said that the riots during Ram Navami procession were "pre-planned, orchestrated and instigated".
The fact-finding panel sought a National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe into the violence. The fact-finding team was on a three-day tour of West Bengal to assess alleged human rights violations in the state during Ram Navami processions in Howrah and Hooghly districts.
The Committee consist of former Patna High Court Chief Justice L Narsimha Reddy, former IPS Raj Pal Singh, former member of National Commission for Women advocate Charu Wali Khanna, former Joint Registrar (Law) National Human Rights Commission of India advocate OP Vyas, senior journalist Sanjeev Nayak and former consultant National Commission for Protection of Child Rights advocate Bhavna Bajaj.
"The Committee is of the view that the riots which erupted on the auspicious occasion of Rain Navami on March 30, and continued in its aftermath, were pre-planned, orchestrated, and instigated. The trigger was the grossly inflammatory speech of the West Bengal Chief Minister. The Committee has come across several user-generated videos and media reports also reporting multiple videos, which confirm that the peaceful Ram Navami procession was targeted and the rioters were exhorted to stop and target the procession," the report stated.
The Committee in its Report said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee just before the processions on Ram Navami, while sitting on dharna, made a call through a communal speech that any procession passing through 'muslim areas' (as spoken verbatim) will be seriously acted upon.
The Committee said it appeared that communally charged mob violence broke out against people taking part in the peaceful Ram Navami processions and at the same time the state police was found completely missing in action to control rioters.
The Committee sought appropriate police action in the matter by filing FIRs against the culprits behind the riots, to achieve the ends of justice for the victims.
The Committee also sought that the investigation of the riots be handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to ensure that the investigations are being carried out in a fair, impartial and independent manner; protection be provided to persecuted and fearful victims so that their life can return to normalcy, including withdrawal of false cases against innocent persons and deployment of Central Forces may be extended as a confidence-building measure for the victims who have lost faith in the state police.
Notably, violent clashes erupted in West Bengal's Howrah during a Ram Navami procession.
Several vehicles were set on fire after two groups clashed in Howrah amid Ram Navami celebrations. During the procession, the rioters vandalised public and private properties while setting vehicles on fire.
Following the violence in Howrah, the West Bengal government on March 31 handed over the probe to Criminal Investigation Department (CID). A special team led by Inspector General of Police, CID Sunil Choudhury initiated the investigation.
Last week, clashes erupted during the BJP's Shobha Yatra (procession) in Hooghly. The state government later issued prohibitory orders and also suspended internet services across the district. (ANI)

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