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Iraq’s tin soldiers fight against glass

Shouts of hate and missiles of malice; broken glass and crumbling confidence… On Wednesday afternoon, it was a Nike showroom that bore the brunt of ‘anti-war’ protesters, five minutes from Shakespeare Sarani police station. Less than 48 hours later, the same group of vandals attacked a Citibank branch on Brabourne Road, five minutes from Lalbazar.

A group of 20 supporters, belonging to the Naxalite faction that had attacked the sports goods showroom on Shakespeare Sarani and walked away, was back at prime time in the city’s business hub on Friday afternoon. In a chilling action replay, they smashed the glass façade of the bank, before leaving the spot unhindered.

As on the previous occasion, the police made a filmi entry — arriving in time to pick up the pieces, after the dirty had been done, and the culprits had fled.

Concerned over the attacks on business establishments with American links, calls for extra security have started pouring into Lalbazar. K.L. Tamta, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) said other foreign banks were among those scurrying for cover.

“Officials from American Express came to my office on Friday, demanding security. Other foreign bank officials, too, have contacted me and expressed their anxiety,” said Tamta.

“I have urged them to alert their personal security guards and assured them that we have intensified vigil in the areas with foreign banks and other such establishments,” he added.

According to officers of Hare Street police station, a handful of Revolutionary Youth Association supporters converged in front of Citibank around 2.45 pm. While a few started raising anti-US slogans, the others got busy plastering the bank walls and door with protest posters. Shouts of “quit India” rang loud and clear in the central business district.

After a while — just as in the Nike attack — some of the activists started hurling stones at the bank. Only after the glass front of the bank’s door splintered did the Naxalite protesters disperse.

Commissioner of police Sujoy Chakraborty asked Tamta to find out why the local police and the Special Branch had no prior information about the demonstration. Deputy commissioner of police (special branch) Gaurav Dutt was directed to activate his department’s network. The Shakespeare Sarani and Hare Street police stations have been urged to arrest the attackers as soon as possible.

“It was an intelligence failure. Police should have known about the attack,” admitted Tamta. “A group of 20 Naxalite activists is creating trouble… We have instructed our Radio Flying Squad and High Radio Flying Squad members to intensify vigil in pockets where foreign establishments are located. We are also requesting Calcuttans to alert us if they get any information about such attacks,” said Tamta.

But some damage has already been done. “The Nike shop came under attack the other day and now it’s the turn of Citibank. These acts are deplorable. One can understand that the popular sentiment is against America, but why attack assets that are 100 per cent Indian'” demanded Vikram Thapar, president, Indian Chamber of Commerce.

“These incidents are nothing but law-and-order problems and the government should set aside politics and crack down on the culprits, for the sake of the state’s long-term business interest,” added Thapar.

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