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Bhaktinagar protest outside court

Jalpaiguri, July 23: Lawyers and Youth Congress members today blocked judges from entering the Jalpaiguri district court protesting the inclusion of Bhaktinagar in the Siliguri commissionerate and later scuffled with police who arrested 44 of them.

However, some residents of Bhaktinagar, which falls under the Siliguri Municipal Corporation, today supported its inclusion in the commissionerate, saying they would be freed of the hassle of travelling to Jalpaiguri town, 50km away, for every small government work.

Abhinandan Chowdhury, the secretary of the Jalpaiguri Bar Association, said the loss of Bhaktinagar to the commissionerate would adversely affect the legal community.

“Cases will be heard by the metropolitan magistrate of the commissionerate and the lawyers here will suffer. We support the Youth Congress over their movement and we will continue our agitation,” Chowdhury said.

Jalpaiguri district Youth Congress president Saikat Chatterjee said: “If the Bhaktinagar area is included in the Siliguri commissionerate, our district will lose revenue and administrative and judicial work as well as policing will be affected. The Bhaktinagar police station falls in the Debgram-Fulbari constituency of north Bengal development minister Gautam Deb. We will not allow it to be included in the Siliguri commissionerate.”

The protesters scuffled with police personnel and 44 of them were arrested and taken to the Kotwali police station where they were released on a personal bond.

Around 9am, about 50 Youth Congress supporters gathered outside the gates of the court and blocked it. Soon, members of the Bar association also joined them.

The district and sessions judge, A. Kuddush, escorted by a pilot car and followed by other judges in their vehicles, arrived at 10am but the protesters told the judges to go back as they had shut down the court as a mark of protest.

The district and sessions judge made it plain to the demonstrators that the court would run. Soon after, a large police force arrived on the spot and the scuffle broke out.

After about 15 minutes of pushing and shoving, the court gate was opened and the judges and court staff entered the premises.

The Chhatra Parishad too had planned a blockade on the railway tracks at Jalpaiguri Road station from noon but a police team prevented them from doing so.

Although the Youth Congress and the lawyers have spoken against the inclusion of Bhaktinagar in the newly formed commissionerate — it will be opened on August 3 —several residents living in 14 wards of Bhaktinagar are for its inclusion.

“We introduce ourselves as Siliguri residents. I live in Lake Town under the Siliguri Municipal Corporation area and my postal address has a Siliguri pin code. But people like us have to travel 100km to and from Jalpaiguri for every petty administrative work,” Utpal Choudhury, a businessman residing in the Bhaktinagar police station area, said.

“Right from registration of land or a marriage, to legal cases to passport renewal, we have to go to Jalpaiguri.”

Sonam Lama, an employee at a private firm and a resident of Salugara, echoed him.

“If Bhaktinagar is included in the commissionerate, some of these tasks can be done in Siliguri. We find no justification behind the agitation launched in Jalpaiguri as hardly any resident living under Bhaktinagar police station area supports it,” he said.

“Those demonstrating in Jalpaiguri must understand our regular problems. Many times, we have to visit Jalpaiguri twice or thrice for an administrative job, which means additional expenditure and time,” he said.