West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hit the streets again on Tuesday protesting implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA). Even as she was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments that protesters can be identified “by their clothes”; she herself shrugged off the State government’s responsibility to protect “Railways” (and its properties).
Anti-CAA protesters in the State have primarily targeted the Railways by vandalising stations and ticket counters, laid seize to tracks or have pelted stones at passing trains. At least 700 trains have been cancelled since protests began from Friday onwards.
In fact, Banerjee went a step further to dismiss these as “small incidents” and took the moral high ground by claiming the State government was actually helping out Railways by arresting alleged vandals.
Sources in the Railways said that in Malda (in North Bengal) — where the station was vandalised — the losses are to the tune of ₹25 crore and it may take another seven days for long distance (train) services to resume.
“A few small incidents have happened and they are cancelling long distance trains. Just because some trains were set on fire, the Centre has stopped railway services in most parts of Bengal. This is not right. It is not the State Government’s job to protect Railways. They have their RPF (Railway Protection Force) . But, I have still helped them out (Railways) and police have made arrests,” Banerjee said.
Series of rallies
However, protests continued, primarily, targeting railway stations even as the West Bengal police tweeted that there have been over 350 arrests.
Banerjee, spear-headed her second consecutive rally today — by walking a 7-km stretch between Jadavpur and Bhowanipore — after protests continued for the fifth day. Apart from targeting Railways properties, protesters have set ablaze buses and ransacked toll plazas. Blockades across National Highways have also been reported. The Governor, Jagdeep Dhankhar, has already called on the state Director General of Police (DGP) and Chief Secretary to brief him about the law and order scenario. The two are yet to meet the Governor till reports last came in.
In a parallel development, the West Bengal government put on-hold training programs and activities relating to the National Population Register (NPR). The Left parties and civil rights groups had alleged that the Population Register was expected to lay the groundwork for rolling out a citizens’ list in future.
The BJP, on the other hand, took out a rally in support of the CAA at Howrahand also in Behala-Thakurpukur, the southern fringes of the city. This is the State unit’s second rally.
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