Students Federation of India (SFI), the CPM’s student wing, fought a pitched battle with the police after its activists were prevented from rallying against the US attack on Iraq in front of the American Center on Thursday evening. The activists threw stones at the police, who dispersed them with a lathicharge.
The 45-minute streetfight left five policemen and a host of SFI supporters injured and in hospital. A glass pane of the American Center was shattered by a stone thrown by the SFI activists.
Traffic along Jawaharlal Nehru Road came to a standstill.
At around 2.30 pm, two groups of SFI activists gathered on Mayo Road and in front of Birla Planetarium. They then headed for the American Center. Thepolice build-up in front of the Center was massive, in anticipation of the demonstration.
Deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) K.L. Tamta said his men stopped the two groups in front of the Center. “They demanded to be let into the building. Our officers formed a human chain and the activists began to scream and shout at the policemen,’’ he said.
Tamta alleged that the SFI supporters threw stones at the police without any provocation.
The city on Thursday reverberated with demonstrations by Left parties against the US attack on Iraq.
Earlier in the day, the CPM’s youth wing, DYFI, had gathered at Kidderpore and burnt an effigy of President George W. Bush. Police said the protesters dispersed after half an hour.
The SUCI, too, joined the protest bandwagon, with 100 supporters marching from College Street to Esplanade East. The activists sat on the road and shouted slogans against President Bush. They wanted to proceed towards the American Center but were prevented by the police.
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee was part of a demonstration against the US aggression with 60 councillors of the Trinamul Congress in front of the American Center. The rallyists submitted a memorandum to the Center’s liaison officer.
A Naxalite group, Juddha Birodhi Mancha, gathered on Amherst Street to protest the war on Iraq. Police cordoned off the area and forced them to disperse.
Deputy commissioner Tamta announced that the police have banned demonstrations on the stretch of Jawaharlal Nehru Road between Harrington Street and the Metro Railway office. “Security has been intensified in the area and steps taken to ensure that demonstrators do not cross the cordon,’’ he added.
nAirport arrests: Customs officers arrested three persons at the airport and seized fake currency worth Rs 2 lakh late on Wednesday. They said Ranjit Singh, Bipu Saigal and Harpreet Singh had flown in from Bangkok and were to take a flight to Delhi, when their movements aroused suspicion. During interrogation, they handed over the bags containing the notes. The trio has been handed over to the airport police.