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Anti-Citizenship Bill stir: Mamata downplays violence in W. Bengal

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on December 18, 2019 Published on December 18, 2019

West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, upped the ante of the anti-CAA program as she took out her third rally in Kolkata on Wednesday, December 18, 2019. - Picture: Debasish Bhaduri/Kolkata

West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, sought to downplay incidents of violence during anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests that led to vandalisation of railway stations here. However, in the same breath she strongly condemned comments by the Minister of State for Railways, Suresh Angadi, who said those setting ablaze stations should be shoot at sight by authorities.

Speaking in Hindi while spearheading her third rally in as many days against the Citizenship Amendement Act, 2019, Mamata Banerjee said as a former Rail Minister she knows that there are “different grades” of stations and vandalism has so far been carried out in smaller ones.

“Gaon mein thoda thoda hua. Humne action bhi liya; arrest bhi kiya. (Vandalism has been carried out in some small village stations. We have taken action too and arrested many miscreants,” she said.

In the same breath the Chief Minister also condemned the “shoot at sight” comment by the junior Union minister. “But you cannot say shoot at sight (for such protests). This is not democracy,” Banerjee added.

A day ago, the Chief Minister had shrugged off any responsibility for protecting the Railways and said it was the job of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to ensure safety of properties. She had called such vandalism as “small incidents”.

Damage to Railways

Railway stations have borne the biggest brunt of anti-CAA protests. Since December 13 – the day anti-CAA protests broke out in Bengal - at least 19 stations have been vandalised and 20 trains set ablaze or ransacked. Some of the major stations that have been affected include Beldanga in Murshidabad, Malda in North Bengal, Akra along the Sealdah -  Budge Budge line, Uluberia in Howrah, among others.

Protesters also pelted stones at moving trainsand laid siege to tracks. Nearly 700 trains – passing through or originating in Bengal – have been cancelled.

Sources say, across the three divisions of the Eastern Railway (ER) — Howrah, Sealdah and Malda —127 mail/express trains, 190 passenger trains and 290 suburban trains run. The Malda division is said to have suffered losses to the tune of ₹25 crore; while in the South Eastern Railways’ Kharagpur division, losses are to the tune of ₹16 crore.

More rallies planned

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister, called for building-up “people’s resistance” against CAA and NRC. She even announced an extension of her party’s protest programs by another two days – Thursday and Friday. She is expected to address rallies in the city on both these days.

On the other hand, BJP’s national general secretary, Kailash Vijayvargia, was heckled by alleged Trinamool workers in Murshidabad district. The BJP on its part too is carrying on with its outreach program trying to dispel fears surrounding CAA. Two BJP MPs were also detained by the police in North Bengal.

Published on December 18, 2019
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