Calcutta, Nov. 22: The war zone was marked out, the foot soldiers were mobilised and the assault tactics crafted with care — everything about yesterday’s eruption in the heart of the city was planned.
Among the unfulfilled objectives was an attempt to waylay chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, according to police officers trying to pin down the hand that lit the fire.
Besides, the political divide appears to have dissolved in the frenzy as some local operators associated with the three mainstream parties have been linked to either the protest or the vandalism that followed.
Contrary to the perception that the violence was a mindless explosion, police have found that meetings were held off Ripon Street — the epicentre of the clashes — and the nearby Nonapukur and Tantibagan asking youths from the minority community to hit the streets to be heard.
Many people from the area did not report for work on Wednesday as they had to take part in the protest that dealt with issues such as Taslima Nasreen’s ouster and Nandigram.
But the most important part of the planning was not to let the violence acquire a communal hue, because of which a lot of care went into selecting the “theatre of war”.
The wave of attacks on the police started at the Ripon Street-AJC Bose Road crossing around 9.40am and spread to Park Circus Seven-Point Crossing, Bridge No.4 and Padmapukur on CIT Road.
However, many areas remained unaffected, too. “It is surprising that there was a flare-up on Ripon Street, but adjacent areas like Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, Taltala and SN Banerjee Road remained unaffected…. Instead, it spread to Bridge No. 4, which is not that close,” an officer said.
According to him, demographic composition played a key role in the selection of the attack zones. The strategy not only ensured minimal communal conflict but also helped draw people to the streets on an issue like Taslima Nasreen’s ouster.
“They chose areas with very high concentration of Urdu-speaking population. A flare-up in places like Taltala or Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road which have a mixed population could have led to a communal crisis and the leaders were aware of it.”
Other sensitive pockets in the city, such as Rajabazar, Kidderpore and Garden Reach, remained calm — proof that the aim was to create the maximum localised impact, another officer added.
The manner in which the protesters put in place a “relay system” to pursue the police also suggested careful coordination. “While chasing us away from Ripon Street, the protesters stopped as soon as we crossed a particular point. Another waiting group of protesters would take up the pursuit then. We have never seen anything like this,” said an officer.
Waking up after the storm has blown itself over, the police have collected the information from those arrested during the riots and local sources.
The police still have not figured out the reason for such a planned offensive but suspect that someone wanted to send a message that the community should not be ignored.
As the anger was primarily targeted at the CPM, the men behind the movement — not the official organisers — had two goals: block the chief minister on his way to Writers’ from the party headquarters and attack the police at the slightest provocation.
Bhattacharjee was at Alimuddin Street for at least two hours during the violence but the rioters could not reach the party headquarters off AJC Bose Road, one of the worst-affected stretches.
Police sources claimed that the protesters were ready to go to any extent and a section was armed with revolvers, knives and bombs. “The instruction was to use the weapons only if the police opened fire,” said an officer. The police did not open fire.
Youths from Ripon Street, Taltala and Mehndibagan — the stronghold of Trinamul Congress leader Sultan Ahmed — were sent to specific areas. “Names of some disgruntled CPM workers have also come up,” an officer said.
The All India Minority Forum (AIMF) and the Furfura Sarif Muzadeedia Anath Foundation had called for the state-wide chakka jam. “The AIMF does not have such a large presence in the city. Some other people or organisations took advantage of the banner,” said a Ripon Street resident.
Friday prayer appeal
Calcutta, Nov. 22: The police commissioner has requested a group of imams of city mosques, including Nakhoda, to appeal for peace during Friday prayers.
Police chief Gautam Mohan Chakrabarti called the imams to his office in Lalbazar this afternoon and made the request. “They assured us help in maintaining peace. We are very satisfied with their response. We are sure normality will be restored from tomorrow,” Chakrabarti told The Telegraph.
During the hour-long meeting, the imams condemned Wednesday’s violence but renewed their demand for the ouster of Taslima Nasreen.