The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rallies turn roads into war zone

Calcutta, Nov. 1: The Opposition SUCI, which dissociated itself from the chief minister’s attempt to regulate rallies in the city by boycotting Wednesday’s all-party meeting, made its intentions clear today by bringing out two processions that blocked Esplanade and Hazra Road.

The roads turned into battlefields in the afternoon when SUCI activists started pelting stones as police wielded batons to disperse them. More than 40 people from both sides were hurt.

The police were caught unawares as the SUCI activists blocked Esplanade East and Hazra Road around the same time, protesting against the poor delivery of healthcare at state-run hospitals.

According to deputy commissioner of police (north division) Rajiv Kumar, nearly 150 SUCI activists came in ones and twos and squatted on the road at the Esplanade East crossing.

The activists, shouting slogans demanding health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra’s resignation, chased away the on-duty constable when he asked them to clear the road. They held up traffic for more than half an hour, disregarding requests by senior police officials.

After 20 minutes, Kumar arrived with a large force and ordered his men to break up the rally. “After repeated requests we had to use force to disperse the demonstrators. Several passers-by and six police officials were injured in the conflict that followed soon after as the SUCI members started pelting stones at us,” he added.

Around 1.15 pm, almost in tandem with their mates at Esplanade, 50 SUCI activists gathered at the crossing of S.P. Mukherjee Road and Hazra Road and stopped traffic for 20 minutes. Police appeals to clear the roads fell on deaf ears, and soon the force launched a lathicharge.

The SUCI workers, armed with batons and stones, again clashed with the police, resulting in injuries to both sides.

Sandhi Mukherjee, special additional commissioner of police (traffic), said 29 SUCI activists, including 18 women, were arrested from the two venues. “All the injured police personnel were taken to SSKM hospital, including the officers in charge of Hare Street and Bhowanipore police stations. Some of them were released while a few are still undergoing treatment,” he said.

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