| The CPI(M-L) state committee organised a rally in central Calcutta on Friday afternoon to protest the high court verdict restricting processions. The marchers walked down S.N. Banerjee Road, holding up rush-hour traffic and causing disruption on Lenin Sarani. Picture by Amit Datta
The ruling party is not waiting till next week to give the Calcutta High Court ruling restricting rallies in weekday Calcutta the thumbs down.
Away from the media glare that the rallies called by left-aligned student groups and trade unions are getting, a much quieter CPM padayatra has been planned for Saturday afternoon, where the party brass has pledged its participation. The occasion: the diamond jubilee of the People’s Relief Committee (PRC), set up 60 years ago as an apolitical organisation but now a CPM front working for “social welfare”.
Except for a last-minute shift in plans, the top CPM brass will be leading a rally of around 2,000 people from the PRC hospital at 26/C, Dilkhusha Street, to Moulali Yuba Kendra, where they will be “received and addressed” by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, predecessor Jyoti Basu and party control commission chief Samar Mukherjee.
Left Front chairman and CPM politburo member Biman Bose (one of the most vocal opponents of Justice Amitava Lala’s order) and ministers Nirupam Sen, Md Amin and Md Salim have already promised to lead from the front, said party insiders.
“The original plans, drawn up before the high court order that was passed on September 29, stay in place,” confirmed Mukherjee. “From the list of those invited to participate in the rally to the senior leaders who will receive them at Moulali Yuba Kendra, nothing has been changed,” he added.
The chief minister’s secretariat on Friday afternoon corroborated this. “As things stand now, Buddhababu is going to address the PRC diamond jubilee celebrations,” an official said. “His schedule shows that he is slated to be one of the main speakers at the programme, that begins at 3.30 pm,” he added.
Deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) Kuldiep Singh said on Friday afternoon he had “no ready knowledge” of the proposed rally. Officials of the traffic wing said they would act “as the situation demanded”.
PRC officials, too, tried to play down the “hype about rallies” following the court ruling. “This is not a political programme,” one of them insisted. “It’s just that the CPM leaders likely to participate in Saturday’s programme have been connected with our work for quite some time.”
The PRC was set up on September 29, 1943, to address the suffering of a populace in the grip of a famine. “Helping famine and riot victims, the PRC stood by the people of Bengal during some of their worst times,” said a committee official. By the time the four-storey outdoor hospital was built in 1997, the CPM had wrested control of the committee.