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Shoe protest at Buddha meet

Sept. 9: Over 200 Trinamul activists waved shoes and shouted slogans as former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee entered the Arambagh hall for a closed-door meeting today.

When Bhattacharjee, the lone speaker at the CPM workers’ meeting in Rabindra Bhavan, began his speech around 2.30pm, the demonstrators outside shouted: “Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee duur hato (Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, get out).”

CPM leaders accused that the 50-odd policemen stood mute spectators as the protesters shouted for around 45 minutes in the rain.

Subdivisional police officer of Arambagh Shibaprasad Patra said he could not order the policemen to charge at the agitators merely for shouting slogans and waving footwear. “We did not prevent them from demonstrating outside Rabindra Bhavan because they did not pose any law-and-order problem. In a democratic set up, anybody can give vent to his grievances,” he said.

Trinamul sources said the demonstrators ran away on being chased by loyalists of the party’s Arambagh block president, Swapan Nandy, apparently under instruction from the state leadership.

Nandy denied that the agitators were Trinamul workers. “Those who were shouting slogans outside Rabindra Bhavan have nothing do with us. They are CPM workers owing allegiance to (expelled CPM leader) Anil Basu,” he said.

A Trinamul general secretary in Calcutta said the leadership disapproved of today’s demonstration outside Bhattacharjee’s meeting venue. “It is not our culture to demonstrate like this when a leader from the Opposition holds a meeting. Mamatadi always sticks to such ethics,” he said.

However, Trinamul youth leader from Arambagh Sohrab Hossain said: “They were our party supporters.”

The Hooghly district administration had earlier denied permission for the meeting, citing political tension in Arambagh, but later relented.

The demonstration prompted Bhattacharjee to say that the turnout outside indicated “the party’s disconnect with the people of Arambagh”.

According to CPM state secretariat member Rabin Deb, the slogans and the waving of shoes at a former chief minister portrayed the lawlessness in the state under the Mamata Banerjee-led government. “Such a demonstration by Trinamul activists smacks of Mamata’s lack of political ethics. This single incident speaks a lot about the prevailing lawlessness in the state,” he said.

Bhattacharya, in his 40-minute speech, instructed partymen to “put up mass resistance” to counter Trinamul terror. “The time has come to put up a mass resistance against Trinamul Congress-sponsored terror in the state. We should reach out to people, particularly a section of the poor who did not vote for us in the Assembly polls. This will mobilise public opinion against Trinamul. We should also consolidate our party,” he said.

He, however, acknowledged that that “the gagging of the Opposition during the Left rule coupled with highhandedness of some leaders” had led to the Left’s downfall in the Assembly polls last year.