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Bhaktinagar bandh halts Jalpaiguri

Aug. 13: An apolitical organisation demanding Bhaktinagar’s exclusion from the Siliguri police commissionerate today managed to bring Jalpaiguri to near standstill in a 12-hour bandh with help from activists of the Youth Congress and the CPM.

Schools, shops and banks stayed shut and private transport stayed off the road. Government offices were open but attendance was thin.

At least one bus was ransacked in Jalpaiguri town and a passenger train blocked. Police said 27 people had been arrested, several of whom were Youth Congress activists and CPM supporters.

The Jalpaiguri Nagarik Unnayan Mancha, boosted by the success of the strike, said it would continue with its movement to keep Bhaktinagar out of the commisionerate’s jurisdiction area.

“People of Jalpaiguri have responded to our call and observed the strike spontaneously. We will go ahead with our movement and not let Bhaktinagar be under the Siliguri police commissionerate under any circumstances,” said Sujit Sarkar, the Mancha secretary.

“It has been decided that on August 16, we will send a letter to the chief minister through the district magistrate, seeking her intervention to exclude Bhaktinagar from the police commissionerate,” Sarkar said. He thanked the Youth Congress and the CPM for making the bandh a success.

He claimed the strike was “peaceful” but there were reports of agitators ransacking a bus.

Bandh supporters picketed at road crossings and in front of administrative offices this morning.

During the agitation, they ransacked a private bus bound for South Dinajpur from Jalpaiguri around 7am.

Another group of supporters reached the Jalpaiguri Town station and blocked the NJP-Haldibari passenger train for around 10 minutes.

Police and the RPF intervened to disperse the protesters from the tracks — some of them were arrested but later released — and normalise train movement.

Bandh supporters also blocked the entrance to the district court and did not let the judges enter the premises.

Abdul Kuddush, the district and sessions judge reached the court around 10am but could not go in. He had to leave after a 30-minute wait as the bandh supporters did not relent.

Some NBSTC buses that had rolled out of the Jalpaiguri depot were blocked by agitators and sent back to the stand.

Trinamul leaders of Jalpaiguri said today’s strike was a “joint plan of the CPM and the Congress”.

“The CPM and the Congress jointly organised the strike to impede development work carried out by the state government,” said Chandan Bhowmik, the Jalpaiguri district Trinamul president. “The strike has only added to the problems of common people,” he added.

Police officers said 27 people, including Jalpaiguri district Youth Congress president Saikat Chatterjee and Bar association secretary Abhinandan Choudhury, were arrested for picketing.

Prabhat Chakraborty, the deputy superintendent of police (headquarters), confirmed the report of the bus ransacking.

While strike was observed in Jalpaiguri, the Brihattar Siliguri Nagarik Mancha, the forum — formed by Bhaktinagar and Siliguri residents to retain Bhaktinagar under the commissionerate and transfer the jurisdiction of the area to Siliguri court instead of Jalpaiguri court 45km away — organised a citizen’s convention at Ramkinkar Hall in Siliguri this afternoon.

Ratan Banik, its general secretary, said: “The convention turned out to be effective today where people from different walks of life supported our cause and movement. Elaborate discussions were held and it was resolved that two principal demands would be raised by us.”

Banik said: “Our demands are to include Dabgram and Binnaguri, two mouzas which are in Jalpaiguri district but are located just outside the SMC area, under Siliguri subdivision and to transfer the jurisdiction of Bhaktinagar police station from Jalpaiguri court to Siliguri court.”

He said his organisation would send “letters to the chief minister and governor on these two issues and will continue its movement until these are met”.

During the convention, a 23-member executive committee of the Mancha was formed, Banik said.