The BJP’s Rath Yatra in West Bengal was halted before it could roll out in December apparently because of far-fetched intelligence reports and not tips from the ground as originally claimed, an India Today investigation has found.
Party chief Amit Shah planned to kick off state-wide campaign tours from West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district on December 7, South 24 Parganas on December 9, and from Birbhum on December 14.
The Mamata Banerjee government denied permission, citing intelligence reports about threat to communal harmony. When the BJP challenged the ban, the Supreme Court rejected its plea, saying “apprehension expressed by the state government are not unfounded”.
TIPS FROM “UP IN THE AIR”
As the political heat grew over the row, India Today’s Special Investigation Team penetrated West Bengal’s intelligence apparatus to determine how potentially dangerous the proposed Rath Yatra could have been if allowed in the state.
The probe found there was hardly any specific intelligence to justify the ban.
In West Bengal’s Bankura district, J.P. Singh, an officer in charge of intelligence watch, confessed that his unit’s report was based on diktats from the top.
“What kind of input you had about it? Its potential to trigger riots?” asked India Today’s undercover reporter.
“There was nothing of the sort. If they had permissions, we would have given our protection. But they didn’t have any permission,” Singh replied.
“But Sir, you must have prepared your report,” the reporter probed.
“Yes, that was prepared. Every district prepared it. It’s the same all over,” he answered. “What I am saying is that the master is only one person not ten people. The report is based on their instructions and sent out accordingly.”
He admitted that their dossier on the proposed Yatra was based on vague inputs. “Everything was up in the air,” Singh said.
Bappaditya Ghosh, an ACP with the special branch in West Bengal’s Paschim Bardhaman district, alleged both the Trinamool and the BJP were involved in instigating religious passions.
At the same time, he claimed his office had no concrete intelligence about issues that the BJP’s Yatra might have caused in the state.
“We were under some political pressure,” he alleged. Political pressure, the law and order situation, the festivals around the time.”
According to the official, his unit reported about “a communal problem” in Paschim Bardhaman district in March, 2018. “We gave a complaint about that problem.”
“Which means there was no fresh input,” asked the reporter.
“No, no. Nothing of the sort,” Ghosh replied. “There was no such problem.”
TMC DENIES FAKE INTEL
But the ruling TMC sought to dismiss India Today’s independent investigation as a conspiracy.
Senior party leader Madan Mitra insisted the state government had credible leads that the BJP plotted to trigger communal unrest in West Bengal.
“I totally disagree. This is a conspiracy hatched by the leadership of the BJP,” he said. “You know, unnecessarily, the BJP has not spent Rs 4,000 crore on publicity. So, they have purchased almost all media.”
Mitra rejected suggestions the state’s intelligence network was under pressure to prepare fake reports against the BJP’s Rath Yatra.
“We were getting several reports from districts, even (from) the block level, that the BJP is trying to organize communal riots everywhere. So, it is not forged. It is not fake. The reports that have gone from the district level are absolutely true,” the TMC leader insisted.
REPORTS BASED ON PAST TROUBLE
But those who were supposed to gather intelligence from the ground were caught on camera confessing their alarms about the opposition event were far-fetched.
In West Bengal’s Purba Bardhaman, Madhup Chandra Das, a deputy superintendent of police at the District Intelligence Bureau, denied receiving any negative inputs about the BJP’s planned Yatra.
“No, we had no information about it,” he said.
“It’s a political matter….”
“You mean it wasn’t a sensitive issue. Had the Yatra rolled out, would there have been riots?” the reporter asked.
“No, nothing of the sort,” the official replied.
In Howrah Rural, intelligence authorities admitted their report to the state government was based on past records — and not on the present situation.
Inspector Amarjit in local intelligence acknowledged there were no tips about fresh disturbance in the current circumstances.
“Old cases registered in police stations some years ago were sent,” he said.
“Nothing of the sort happening in the current situation?” asked the reporter.
“No, no. Nothing of the sort as of now. There’s no such apprehension.”
BJP DEMANDS INVESTIGATION
“This is an issue of purgery committed by the TMC. And we demand an investigation into this,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra told India Today TV’s Rahul Kanwal.
“Mamata Banerjee is dictatorial didi. They harbour love and concern for Rohingyas. But for PM Modi, Yogi [Adityanath], and Amit Shah are characters that should not be allowed to enter Bengal. And you say you love democracy. No ma’am, you hate democracy. This is India, this is my India, this is your India. Every Indian has every right to travel across the country,” he added.
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “There cannot be anything more unfortunate and undemocratic than this. Their own intelligence officials have been heard saying they were under pressure to send out this report.”
LEFT ALSO DISAPPROVES
CPI(M) leader Fuad Halim alleged that the BJP cancelled the Rath Yatra on its own after it was denied permission and then went “crying around the town they were not being allowed to hold their rallies”.