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Clashes And Confusion: Howrah Police and VHP at Odds Over Permission for Ram Navami Rally

Following the violence and clashes in some areas of Howrah, Kolkata’s twin City, during the Ramnavami Shobha Yatra by VHP on March 30, controversies, and doubts were raised on social media about the necessary police permission for the rally.

While CM Mamata Banerjee blamed the BJP for the violence and alleged that the rally organisers had changed the route, BJP leader Amit Malviya tweeted a screenshot of the letter on March 31  saying “VHP had all the permissions for taking out the Ramanavami Shobha Yatra”. 

Ramnavami Shobha Yatra by VHP
Screenshot of the tweet by Amit Malviya on 31 March 2023

Soon after Malviya’s tweet, people started doubting the screenshot of the letter and called it “fake news”. Many users claimed that the VHP did not have the necessary police permission for the rally as the viral letter posted by Amit Malviya only shows VHP was seeking permission for the Ram Navami rally. 

By zooming in on the viral letter posted by Malviya we can see the stamp mark that shows the letter was “Received” from the Licence section of the Howrah police commissioner.

Ramnavami Shobha Yatra by VHP

The saga of multiple letters

Newschecker got hold of official exchanges between VHP and Howrah police regarding the Ram Navami rally permission.

On March 1 and 3, Indra Deo Dubey, convenor of the Ram Navami Shobha Yatra rally from the VHP Howrah district unit, wrote two letters respectively to the DCP special branch and the police commissioner of Howrah, seeking permission for the Shobha Yatra on March 30 stating that the rally would commence at 4 pm and end at 8 pm. 

In these letters, the route map and other details of the rally were mentioned. As mentioned in the route map the rally was supposed to start from BE college gate number 1 and end at Ramkrishnapur ghat.

Viswa Hindu Parishad initially stated in thie letter that the number of participants would be “300 more/less” and that “Jai Shree Ram” would be the only slogan used in the rally. 

A section of the form also asked “ Whether any kind of sword/ stick/ weapon will be displayed or not?”, to which VHP’s answer was affirmative. 

On March 21, a letter was issued by the Office of the Assistant Commissioner of Howrah police to VHP and Anjani Putra Sena, another right-wing organisation that was seeking permission for the Ram Navami rally. 

The letter mentiones the same day, a coordination meeting had been held in the office chamber of the Deputy commissioner of police ( central division) which was attended by the organisers of VHP and Anjani Putra Sena in the presence of police officers of Howrah police commissionerate.

The letter mentioned that “last year there was a serious law and order problem” which occurred in the Ram Navami rally “ due to non-compliance of timeline strictly”. 

Therefore this time Howrah police had set out a four-point guideline to the organisers of the Ram Navami rally.

Per this guideline, the rally will start on March 30 at “2.30 pm and will be completed by 5 pm”, the time and route should be followed strictly.

The police asked them to organise their own volunteers for crowd control and provide details about the volunteers and members participating in the rally by March 29.

Provocative gestures and the use of malicious slogans aimed at people of other communities were prohibited. The guideline did not allow to carry weapons or use any motorcycle, or DJ in any way.

Ramnavami Shobha Yatra by VHP

A week later, on March 28, the rally organisers were directed to submit the documents providing the “the exact number of participants”, route of the rally mentioning starting and ending points, exact starting and finishing time of the rally and previous year’s permission copy. The very next day, Dubey sent out two letters on March 29 in response to the police queries. 

Although as per police guidelines, the rally timing was from 2.30 pm to 5 pm, the VHP maintained that their rally will start at 3 pm and will end at 7 pm. 

In a second letter the VHP convenor, Indra Deo Dubey, said that he cannot provide the exact number of participants in the rally and that the number could be anything between 200 to 2000. 

VHP provided the same route map which they had sent earlier and also old approval letters from Howrah police regarding the Ramnavami rally from 2019. Also attached was another letter from 2022 mentioning the same rally route. 

No permission given” : Howrah Police

Speaking with Newschecker Praveen Tripathy, the Police Commissioner of Howrah said, “no permission was given” to VHP or Anjani Putra Sena to organise the Ram Navami rally in Howrah on March 30. 

Per the top cop of Howrah, while guidelines were indeed issued by senior police officials to the organisers and additional information was requested, but they did not submit the documents adhering to the police guidelines, so “ their application was pending and there was no permission” given from the Howrah police headquarters.

Dubey, the main organiser of the Shobhayatra maintains that the local police stations are supposed to give the license for these rallies, “but we have never received that from the local thanas”.

Newschecker has independently not investigated whether these guidelines were followed or whether participants deviated from the rally route, as alleged by the state govt. 

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