Crowd of commuters at Sealdah station as trains are delayed because of the protest. Picture by Sayantan Ghosh
Calcutta, May 2: Suspected Trinamul Congress supporters today chased and beat up cheated depositors and agents of the Saradha Group at a time the deposit scandal has become an election issue.
Armed with sticks and stones, the suspected Trinamul supporters attacked the demonstrators squatting on railway tracks at Garia station and blocking trains in the Sealdah South section. The protesters were demanding immediate payback and arrest of people behind the Saradha scandal.
The attackers were spotted punching the demonstrators, beating them with sticks and kicking a youth after pinning him to the ground.
“We had a legitimate reason to raise our voice against those who defrauded us…. But it was not clear why Trinamul leaders attacked us,” said Bijoy Das Sapui, a Saradha agent.
According to him, Trinamul activists dragged him out of the station, tore his shirt and beat him up with sticks. “The men kicked me down the platform stairs,” Sapui said.
The mob, allegedly led by a Trinamul councillor of Rajpur-Sonarpur municipality, tried to bodily lift some of the agitators from the tracks, usurping the role of police who stood by as onlookers.
Bibhas Mukherjee, the Trinamul councillor, said: “I heard that the agitators were beating up some of our supporters from a local club when they requested them to lift the blockade. So I had to intervene.”
Today’s blockade was part of a scheduled protest by the Chit Fund Sufferers Unity Forum at several places in the Howrah and Sealdah railway divisions.
In most places, the protesters moved away from the tracks after one-and-a-half hours. But the situation turned violent after the suspected Trinamul supporters intervened.
“A group of men wearing caps with Trinamul symbols began abusing and beating us with sticks. They labelled us CPM supporters and asked us to move away from the tracks and demonstrate near Sujan Chakraborty’s (the Left candidate in Jadavpur) house. They dragged us out of the station in groups and beat us up,” said Jayanta Halder, an agent of the Sanmarg Group.
“This government is doing nothing against the chit funds that robbed us. Now they are sending their men to kill us,” said Saifuddin Mondal, an agent of the Chakra Group, who was initially picked up by officers of Jadavpur GRP but was later released.
Some sources suggested that the Left and the Congress might have unofficially supported today’s agitation, seeking to galvanise public opinion against the state government.
Asked why the Left did not come out in the open today, a CPM leader said: “We did not want our party to be seen as officially blocking railway tracks, forcing trains to halt and causing inconvenience to commuters. That would not have done us any good in the middle of the elections.”
Four long-distance trains were held up at various stations for several minutes because of the protest. Twenty-three local trains were cancelled.