The Calcutta high court on Thursday allowed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to proceed with its ‘Save Democracy’ Rath Yatra in West Bengal, in a major setback to the Mamata Banerjee government. The state had refused permission for the proposed ‘yatra’, citing intelligence reports of possible communal violence in areas where the party was planning the rallies.
The court slammed the reasoning of the Bengal government and said it would be “appropriate to permit the petitioner to hold the rally… to organise the yatras”. “The petitioner will inform the police authorities, superintendent of district where the ‘yatra’ shall enter, at least 12 hours before entering the concerned district. The commissioner will ensure conducting ‘yatra’ in peaceful manner,” the judge observed. The court directed that BJP’s ‘yatra’ will be held as per the guidelines framed by the state government and the administration should ensure that there is no breach of law and order.
The state will now move a divisional bench against the order on Friday.
Reacting to the verdict, BJP’s Amit Malviya tweeted, “Calcutta High Court upholds BJP’s constitutional right, gives green signal to its #GantantraBachaoYatra… Mamata Banerjee’s fascist diktat overturned.”
BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, too, welcomed the directive and said, “It is a major setback for the Mamata government and a big win for us. They tried their best to stop our ‘yatra’ but today court dismissed the denial letter issued by the state government. We are very happy with the order. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and our party president Amit Shah will be present here in Bengal during the ‘yatra’.” State BJP president Dilip Ghosh said, “We welcome the decision and we will follow directive of the court before going ahead with the yatra.”
Shah, who had set a target of 22 Lok Sabha seats in the state, was scheduled to flag off three chariots from as many places as part of the party’s “save democracy” campaign. The chariots were meant to travel to all 42 parliamentary constituencies over the next one-and-a-half months. At the conclusion of the ‘yatra’, the party had planned a massive rally in Kolkata, which was likely to be addressed by Modi.
On December 15, fearing major breach of peace and communal violence during and in the aftermath of the ‘yatra’, the West Bengal government denied permission to the BJP. On December 19, the saffron party submitted a writ petition at the Calcutta High Court’s bench of Justice Tapobrata Chakraborty, requesting it to allow the event on December 22, 24 and 26.
Dilip Ghosh had also said the party would hold rallies across the state to protest against the government’s decision. “We will inform the masses about the undemocratic atmosphere prevailing in the state and the need for the ‘save democracy’ rally at this hour. If we are stopped or denied permission to hold such rallies, then we will be forced to organise civil disobedience movement,” he had said.