|12 June, 2019

Police fire tear gas to break up protest by India's ruling BJP in east

At least 15 people have died in the political violence

Supporters of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) break barricades as police use water cannon to disperse them during a protest against what they call violence against their party workers in the state of West Bengal, in Kolkata, India, June 12, 2019.

Supporters of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) break barricades as police use water cannon to disperse them during a protest against what they call violence against their party workers in the state of West Bengal, in Kolkata, India, June 12, 2019.

Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri

KOLKATA, India - Indian police fired tear gas in the eastern city of Kolkata on Wednesday to disperse thousands of members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party protesting over rising political violence, party leaders and witnesses said.

Clashes between supporters of the Hindu nationalist BJP and a regional party that governs West Bengal where Kolkata is located erupted during elections this year and have not stopped since.

At least 15 people have died in the political violence involving the BJP and the regional Trinamool Congress since election results were announced on May 23, police say.

About 10,000 BJP workers gathered in the heart of Kolkata, waving the party's flags, saying they were being targeted by the ruling state government, and pelted stones at police.

Police used water cannon and tear gas to break up the crowd and an officer said 50 supporters were detained to prevent unrest from spreading through the city. They were later released on personal bonds.

The police cordoned off streets leading to the state police headquarters where the protest march was headed and put up barricades.

West Bengal sends the third-largest number of members to the lower house of parliament and was a battleground state in the election, where the BJP pushed hard to make major gains.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP winning by a resounding majority, the party is now focussing on upcoming state elections, including one in West Bengal scheduled for 2021 when it hopes to unseat the government led by firebrand local leader Mamata Banerjee.

(Reporting by Subrata Nag Choudhury in Kolkata and Shounak Dasgupta in New Delhi; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani) ((shounak.dasgupta@thomsonreuters.com; within U.S. +1 646 223 8780, outside U.S. +91 80 6749 1130; Reuters Messaging: shounak.dasgupta.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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