You don’t mess with a bunch of commuters determined to go to work. A group of bandh supporters who were trying to stop a local train in the Sealdah division learnt it the hard way on Thursday.
The dogged commuters got off a Sealdah-bound train in the morning and shooed away a group of around 20 people squatting on the tracks at Shyamnagar station after requests to lift the blockade fell on deaf ears.
The outnumbered bandh supporters, who sat on the railway tracks with BJP flags, had no option but to leave the spot. The train left for its destination after a delay of around 30 minutes at the station.
The incident proved that the population at large had grown weary of the politics of bandhs.
| A queue at the Howrah station bus terminus on Thursday. Picture by Pradip Sanyal
“I am an accountant with a private firm. I needed to go to office at any cost because some cheques were lying in my drawer, which had to be issued to my clients today. I couldn’t tolerate a group of 20-odd men obstructing the movement of hundreds of people,” said Amit Sen, a commuter.
Nandan Roy was another passenger who actively foiled the blockade.
“When we got stranded at Shyamnagar, I went to see what was happening. I was surprised to see a small group of youths squatting on the tracks and shouting slogans. I, along with others, asked them why they were forcibly obstructing the movement of common people who were not interested in responding to the bandh,” said Roy. “When it became clear that they were not ready to pay any attention to what we were saying, we shoved them away.”
This show of strength (and resolve) by office-goers was by no means an exception to the beat-the-bandh norm on Thursday. At several places where railway tracks or roads had been blocked, bandh supporters had to beat a hasty retreat after seeing thousands coming out of their homes to go to their workplaces.
“We, a group of commuters, asked the squatters to clear the railway tracks at Barasat station around 8.30am. On seeing our numbers, the bandh supporters left,” said Kamalesh Biswas, who was travelling to Sealdah.
There were some instances, however, of people facing threats by bandh supporters. A group forcibly downed the shutters of shops at Champadali More in Barasat and damaged six buses that were ferrying people.
A bus was set ablaze in Howrah, allegedly by bandh supporters, around 9am. Around 5 am, some bandh supporters tried to set a bus on the Howrah-Salt Lake route on fire on Bankim Setu. But the blaze was put out quickly.
Police arrested 10 people — allegedly BJP supporters — from Tikiapara station after they tried to block railway tracks.
In the city, too, bandh enforcers were chased away and arrested at various places.
“We arrested 96 persons across the city,” said Jawed Shamim, the joint commissioner of police, headquarters.
Bandh supporters put up roadblocks at important intersections, including the ones at Shyambazar, Rashbehari, Hazra, the MG Road-Central Avenue crossing and in front of Mahajati Sadan between 9.30am and 11.15am. Forty-six people, including BJP leaders Bijoy Ojha and Sunita Jhawar, were arrested from the MG Road-Central Avenue crossing, said the police.