The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Barring BJP, all heed Buddha bandh plea

Calcutta, Sept. 25: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has urged all parties in Bengal to ignore tomorrow’s countrywide bandh called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. At the emergency all-party meeting he convened today, Bhattacharjee also sought their cooperation in maintaining communal harmony.

Representatives of all parties except the BJP assured the chief minister they would cooperate with the government. The BJP leaders, however, said they would help maintain communal amity but would lend moral support to the VHP-sponsored bandh and even participate in a procession to be taken out in the city.

Bhattacharjee told reporters the bandh would have a “negative impact” and might lead to “provocation”. “I requested them (the parties) to ignore the bandh just as we did the Gaurav Yatra. All political parties, except the BJP, said they would cooperate with us,” he said.

Those who attended the meeting said the chief minister also told them about the immediate need to step up vigilance along the borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. “We have stepped up vigil at all the vital installations in the state and will urge the Centre for additional deployment of BSF jawans along the borders with the three countries,” Bhattacharjee said.

Congress leaders Pradip Bhattacharya and Manas Bhuniya suggested that all-party meetings be immediately convened in the districts by district magistrates. The chief minister accepted the suggestion. Within an hour, messages were sent to the district magistrates to hold all-party meetings where MPs and MLAs would also be present.

Bhattacharya said: “The VHP is not a political party and the Congress will oppose the bandh. We have assured the chief minister all cooperation.”

Condemning the attack on the Swaminarayan temple, former PCC chief Somen Mitra blamed both the Centre and the state government for failing to combat militancy. He called upon the state government to immediately seize arms from members of various political parties. “Besides, policemen should be allowed to work independently without any interference,” he said.

State BJP president Asim Ghosh said his party had the “democratic right” to lend support to the VHP-sponsored bandh. “But we assured the chief minister that the rally would be peaceful and the participants would not do anything which might lead to a breach of peace,” he said.

State CPM secretary Anil Biswas said his party would organise processions and street-corner meetings all over the state to condemn the Gandhinagar incident. The government has issued an alert to district authorities and asked them to keep watch on places of worship. “Plainclothesmen will be deployed at all religious places. The borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal are also being watched,” said Narayan Ghosh, deputy inspector general of police (headquarters). Elaborate arrangements have been made to combat tomorrow’s VHP-sponsored bandh, the police official added.

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