West Bengal minister Birbaha Hansda's vehicle was vandalised in Paschim Medinipur district on Friday as members of the Kurmi community allegedly hurled stones at senior TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee's convoy, in which she was travelling, officials said.
The incident happened in Salboni where Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to attend a party programme on Saturday.
Abhishek, a Z-plus protectee, led a roadshow in Jhargram's Binpur and Gopiballavpur as part of his Trinamooley Nabojowar (new wave in Trinamool) campaign. Following the rally, he was travelling through Salboni when members of the Kurmi community, who are protesting demanding ST status, gathered on both sides of the road, a party leader said.
As his car moved ahead, they allegedly started throwing stones at the convoy. "The vehicle of Hansda, which was in the convoy, was damaged in the attack," the leader said.
A huge police contingent was rushed to the spot to control the situation, officials said.
It could not be immediately known if anyone was arrested.
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Banerjee alleged that the BJP was behind the attack.
"I support democratic protests. If somebody wants to come to me and speak, they are always free to do so, but what form of protest is this that you are throwing stones, beating up people, and ransacking vehicles?"
"I believe that some miscreants of BJP disguised as members of the Kurmi community are behind this attack to malign TMC's campaign," he said, addressing a party programme late in the night.
He demanded a statement from the leaders of the Kurmi community over the attack within 48 hours.
"I am giving a 48-hour ultimatum to the leaders of the Kurmi community. They should clarify whether they were behind this incident. If they don't give a statement, it will prove that they were behind it, and then the law will take its course," he said.
Banerjee asked TMC workers to maintain peace and not step into any form of provocation.
"When I was in Bankura, the leaders of the Kurmi community came to meet me. I spoke to them and told them that I support their democratic demands. But what happened today is unacceptable. And what's more surprising is the protestors were chanting Jai Shri Ram," he said.
Rejecting Banerjee's allegations, the BJP said in no way its members were involved in the violence.
"The protests reflected people's anger against the TMC," BJP leader Rahul Sinha said.
Hansda, whose car was vandalised in the attack, said violence can never be the form of a democratic protest.
"This can never be a fight for the rights of a community. All those who have thrown stones are outsiders, and are using the garb of being members of a specific community to justify the violence," said Hansda, the MoS for Forests.
Last week, BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh's house in Paschim Medinipur's Kharagpur was vandalised allegedly by members of a Kurmi outfit over his comments against the community.
"The TMC has been fanning this movement. When my house was attacked they had cherished it, now they are at the receiving end," Ghosh said.
The Kurmi community, which is classified as OBC in West Bengal at present, protested for days in April in different districts of the state, including Dakshin Dinajpur, Purulia, Jhargram and Paschim Medinipur, disrupting traffic on highways and railways.
CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said the TMC leadership should do some soul-searching as to why such protests are taking place in the state.
He claimed that people are angry with the state government over various issues.
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