“Amitava Lala, Bangla chherey pala (Amitava Lala, get out of Bengal),” shouted some rallyists from the 10,000-strong procession. Some among the thousands of Calcuttans stranded in central Calcutta would have secretly hoped to do the same — get out of Bengal, that is — on Monday afternoon, as they waited in vain for their paths to clear.
The rally, brought out by nine youth and students’ organisations of the Left Front in protest against Justice Amitava Lala’s September 29 order banning rallies during working hours on a weekday, once again highlighted the horror of a city centre held to ransom by a handful. As it wound its way down various city-hub roads with pro-rally placards, festoons and slogans, normal life ground to a standstill.
The procession, that started from Calcutta University at around 2.30 pm, crippled arterial roads like College Street, Amherst Street, B.B. Ganguly Street, Nirmal Chandra Street, S.N. Banerjee Road and Jawaharlal Nehru Road. When the head of the rally crossed Jawaharlal Nehru Road at Rani Rashmoni Road, around 3.45 pm, the tail was still at Raja Subodh Mullick Square.
It is learnt that a section of the procession, particularly those who had come from Burdwan, had decided that they would march to Calcutta High Court and hold a demonstration there. They were, however, restrained by the leaders. And then, of course, news reached that a division bench had stayed Justice Lala’s order.
This ruling has, in fact, brought temporary rally relief to Calcutta, with the Left Front deciding to call off the protest rallies slated for Tuesday and Wednesday by its trade unions and women’s organisations. But the conventions will take place, as planned, at Shahid Minar on Day I and Rani Rashmoni Road on Day II.
On Monday, even as a handful of policemen posted along the rally route played the part of onlookers, the youth and students’ fronts of the Left Front showed off their right-to-rally might by marching down the middle of every thoroughfare in sight and causing maximum disruption.
“If the stay order had not come through, the force would have lost face completely due to the chaos on Monday afternoon,” admitted an on-duty policeman.
Yet, at the end of the day, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) Kuldiep Singh said: “According to information at the traffic control, traffic was not disrupted as the rallyists walked in a disciplined fashion along the left side of the roads… There have been no complaints of traffic disruption in central Calcutta.”
The protest march, led by the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), the CPM’s youth wing, described Justice Lala’s order as “poisonous” on a placard, raised slogans against the “black order”, and even labelled the judge “insane”.
At the Rani Rashmoni Road meeting, DYFI leader Tapas Sinha, SFI state secretary Apurba Chatterjee and others vowed to carry on the rally raj, before a delegation left to submit a memorandum to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.