More cameras than cops: A posse of media personnel surrounds siege leader Partha Chatterjee as he enters a police jeep after his arrest. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, Oct. 16: Rush-hour Calcutta was jolted to a halt this evening as the Trinamul Congress protested its leaders’ arrest at Writers’ Buildings.
Many missed their flights, the already-crowded Metro burst at the seams with those trying to escape the mayhem and suburban trains ran into protesters who blocked tracks on several routes.
Hyderabad businessman Y. Balaji spent close to three hours getting to the airport from Salt Lake — usually a 30-minute drive — because of a roadblock on VIP Road. “I left ar- ound 4.30pm but reached the airport only at 7.15.”
His Kingfisher flight was at 7pm. Kingfisher officials said 10 passengers missed flights. “It was difficult to delay the flights as we weren’t sure when the passengers would arrive. They will be accommodated on tomorrow’s flights,” an official said.
Some planes were held back, though, for those caught in the snarl. Air India’s flight to Mumbai was delayed by over 30 minutes. “A large number of passengers had reported late and so we were forced to delay the flight,” a spokesperson for the airline said.
Roadblocks sprang up in at least 20 other places, including Chowringhee and EM Bypass. Some of the blocks were withdrawn following police intervention but some areas, such as Moulali and Taratala, remained inaccessible for nearly two hours.
“We had a tough time removing roadblocks where the protesters numbered over 200. Roadblocks continued for over an hour on the Park Circus Connector where (Trinamul MLA) Javed Khan squatted with 200 supporters,” said an officer. At most points, the agitators numbered 25-30.
“I usually leave office at 6pm. Today, I came out half an hour later as I had heard of the demonstrations. But there was such a rush in the Metro that I could not board a train,” said All India Radio employee Pradip Ranjan Chowdhury.
Aishi Dey, trying to return home to Lake Market from Lindsay Street, complained there were few buses and taxis. “I’m feeling so helpless. I don’t know what good comes out of making ordinary people like us suffer.”
At Hazra, around 100 Trinamul supporters led by Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay gathered around 5.30pm and blocked the road for an hour. The scene was the same on the nearby Judges’ Court Road.
In Howrah, roadblocks were put up at Howrah Maidan, Kadamtala Power House, Nivedita Setu and Dasnagar. Suburban trains were stalled on the Bandel-Katwa, Sealdah-Hasnabad and Ranaghat-Bongaon sections.
Joint commissioner of police, headquarters, Jawed Shamim said 13 Trinamul leaders, including MLAs Madan Mitra, Sonali Guha and Arabul Islam, were arrested. “We held them when they were proceeding towards the Lalbazar police headquarters,” he added.
The MLA trio had started the roadblock that began opposite Metro cinema at 5pm.
The Congress today declared the candidates for the three Assembly seats it is contesting in the November 7 bypolls. They are Hamidul Rahman (Sujapur), Golam Rabbani (Goalpokhar) and Bishan Munda (Kalchini). Its ally Trinamul will contest the other seven seats going to the polls.