Mixed response in Bengal even as Mamata cracks the whip

Our Bureau Kolkata | Updated on January 08, 2020 Published on January 08, 2020

Shuttered shops and ATM outlets in Kolkata   -  Debasish Bhaduri

Police arrest a protesting CPI(M) worker in Kolkata, on Wednesday; (right) shuttered shops and ATM outlets in the city   -  Debasish Bhaduri

The strike called by trade unions against the alleged ‘anti-people’ policies of the Centre witnessed a mixed response in West Bengal.

While the Mamata Banerjee-led government went the extra mile through additional police deployment and increase in public transport to ensure normalcy, there were reports of sporadic violence across the State.

Banks and ATMs remained closed while train services were affected across many places as protesters laid siege on tracks.

Sporadic violence

According to police, violence was reported at Sujapur in Malda district. Protesters allegedly set ablaze police vehicles and some private cars were vandalised before police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the mob. Subsequently, clashes erupted between the police and the protesters.

“There is very clear footage of police and Trinamool Congress goons vandalising vehicles in Malda. This was done at the instigation of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee,” CPI(M) Politburo member Mohammed Salim alleged.

Reports of violence also came in from other districts such as North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Cooch Behar, East Burdwan and East Midnapore, especially in pockets where the Left parties and the Congress enjoy support.

Protesters burnt tyres and blocked roads in various parts of East Burdwan district, besides staging a sit-in on railway tracks, affecting train services in the area.

In East Midnapore district, stones were hurled at buses, following which the protesters clashed with the police, leading to several arrests, officials said. Several buses were also vandalised in Cooch Behar district by the protesters.

Kolkata mostly calm

In Kolkata, there were some reports of violence in the morning when Left and Congress cadres took out rallies, blocked roads and burnt tyres. But city life mostly remained unaffected.

Bandh supporters tried to break past police barricades in Kolkata’s Central Avenue (a short distance from the BJP’s State headquarters).

In Dum Dum and Lake Town, clashes broke out between Left cadres and supporters of the TMC. Police contingents had to rush in defuse the tension.

This apart, in Jadavpur in South Kolkata, where the CPI(M) enjoys some support, blockades were put up by protesters, affecting vehicular traffic. CPI(M) legislative party leader Sujan Chakraborty was detained for allegedly instigating violence.

Most shops remained open across the city despite the fact that some bandh supporters tried to forcefully down shutters at Burrabazaar, a major trading hub, in the central business district.

‘No to strikes’

Banerjee, had made it clear that although she supports the cause of the trade unions and is against the implementation of CAA, NRC and NPR, there will be “no bandh” here. “Loss of income for the poor because of a bandh, especially when there’s an economic slowdown, is unacceptable. There are other forms of democratic protests,” she had said.

Calling the CPI(M) a “signboard party”, the CM lambasted the alleged vandalism and “cheap politics” it had resorted to.

“Those who don’t have any political existence in the State are trying to ruin its economy. The law will take its course and vandals will be brought to book,” she told media personnel.

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Published on January 08, 2020
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