April 9: SFI activists assaulted and tore the shirt of Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra outside the Planning Commission in New Delhi today and held up a furious Mamata Banerjee at the gate, compelling the CPM to condemn the “unwarranted” act by its student wing.
But although former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee slammed the attack as “wrong politics”, no action was known to have been taken till late tonight against SFI general secretary Ritabrata Banerjee, seen in news photos from the scene.
Asked, Bengal leader of the Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra said the guilty would be punished. “When we are condemning it, it’s clear that our party leadership will take steps against those involved,” Mishra said in Calcutta.
Trinamul has lined up rallies across the state on Wednesday to protest the attack. ( )
Mamata, who had accompanied Mitra to Yojana Bhavan to discuss the state’s plan size, had insisted on entering through the gate where the SFI was protesting the death of activist Sudipto Gupta, 23, in Calcutta police’s custody.
Later, the chief minister seemed to have calmed down after an initial outburst and went through with the meeting, but matters suddenly took on a graver aspect in the evening. Mamata cancelled her meeting with the Prime Minister on health grounds, and Mitra was rushed to AIIMS.
A physician in touch with AIIMS doctors told The Telegraph that Mitra had some “minor bruises and a slightly raised blood pressure” and had been asked to stay the night under observation.
Trinamul MP Mukul Roy said Mitra had also complained of chest pain and had “injury marks on his body”.
“Didi’s blood pressure and pulse rate are low. She is having respiratory problems,” Roy said, adding that Mamata was “traumatised”. Manmohan Singh called Mamata to enquire about her and Mitra’s health.
After her meeting with plan panel chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Mamata had told reporters: “Yes, I will meet the Prime Minister and raise Bengal’s economic constraint issue.”
Trinamul sources said the party would make the most of the attack to corner the CPM.
Initially, Mamata had refused to discuss the SFI attack as she met reporters after the discussions with Montek. After an initial post-assault outburst at Montek and minister Rajeev Shukla, both of whom apologised with folded hands, Mamata had appeared in a better mood.
“This is a government meeting, not a political meeting. I will deal with them politically,” she said. “My God… will give them (the CPM) good sense.”
But some 15 minutes later, as the news conference headed to a close, she could not contain herself any longer. “They tried to beat me with a rod. My minister Firhad Hakim saved me.... I never expected this kind of hooliganism,” she said.
In Calcutta, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said: “I severely condemn this incident. I don’t know what sort of politics provoked such an incident, but it is wrong politics. Nobody will support it.”
CPM state secretary Biman Bose said: “Protest is not synonymous with rowdyism. Our men should keep that in mind.”
In Delhi, Ritabrata termed the protest “militant but peaceful” and added: “We did not manhandle anyone or tear their clothes.”
Some 50 SFI activists and state-level CPM leaders had besieged the entry gate, surprising the police. Mamata arrived with ministers Mitra, Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee and insisted on entering through that gate rather than the designated VIP gate. She got off her car to do so.
Ringed by police, Mamata and her ministers pushed their way through the protesters to the locked gate and asked the CISF guards to open it. As the jawans hesitated, Mamata stood waiting with her ministers amid the jostling by SFI activists.
Mitra then made towards the exit gate, free of protesters, perhaps to enter or ask the guards to open the entry gate. Women activists pounced immediately, heckling and assaulting him, and tore his shirt before the police rescued him. Mitra alleged he was attacked with sticks.
As Mamata and the ministers walked in later, a furious chief minister shouted at Montek and Shukla as they welcomed her.
“This is hooliganism…. How did the police allow this? Shame, shame for Bengal…. My ministers have been beaten up,” Mamata bristled.
“Didi, Didi, please come. We apologise. We’ll look into it,” Montek said as Mamata continued: “They are here with 20 hooligans. I will show them 20 lakh people. Is this security? If this is the situation, I will never come to Delhi.”
Yojana Bhavan sources said they had informed Mamata’s officials about the protest 20 minutes in advance and advised entry through the VIP gate. “I had no information,” Mamata said.
Additional reporting by G.S. Mudur