The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bandh flops but not in Burdwan

Sept. 26: Left-ruled Bengal remained largely unaffected by the bandh called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, but state leaders were hard-pressed to explain the impact in Burdwan town, district headquarters of the Red bastion.

Deputy inspector-general of police (headquarters) Narayan Ghosh said at Writers’ Buildings that 315 people were arrested from different places for blocking roads and railway tracks. The bandh, he added, had only affected some pockets in the districts and “there has been no violence”.

But the strike did have an impact in the towns of Burdwan, Behrampore, Malda and the Darjeeling hills. Burdwan district is a CPM stronghold and the bandh’s success in the district headquarters surprised many.

CPM state secretary Anil Biswas denied that the bandh was responsible for shutting down Burdwan town and put the blame on a defective railway track. He said authorities this morning detected the fault at Golsi near Burdwan town and stopped rail traffic.

“After detecting the fault, the railways had stopped movement of trains. As a result, people could not reach Burdwan town. We have no information that shops and establishments were closed. The bandh did not have any impact in the state,” he said.

But not a single shop was open in the town and all establishments and educational institutions were closed.

Buses and rickshaws remained off the roads, while long-distance bus services were suspended, leaving thousands stranded.

Train services were, however, not disrupted.

District magistrate Manoj Agarwal said the bandh was peaceful. He said shops and establishments were closed while attendance at government offices was 50 per cent.

Secretary of the CPM’s Burdwan district committee Amal Haldar said the bandh was partial.

“It is true that some shops and establishments were closed and some buses were off the roads. But the fact remains that these people keep their shops closed during all bandhs, irrespective of the sponsor. We organised a rally urging people to reject the VHP-sponsored bandh, but we did not mobilise party cadre to avoid direct confrontation,” Haldar said.

Apart from Burdwan town, the bandh was total in several areas of Katwa and Kalna subdivision. Kalna subdivisional officer Sumit Chatterjee said the strike was total and a large number of government employees could not come because of lack of transport.

The bandh was also complete in Behrampore town and adjoining areas. Though a large police contingent was deployed in the town, most shops were closed and vehicles remained off the roads. Only some long-distance state buses plied.

The bandh was almost total in Malda district. Several VHP supporters in different groups picketed on the main roads, at markets and educational institutions. VHP-Bajrang Dal supporters were found roaming the streets with saffron bands around their heads and lathis in hand.

Transport services ground to a halt after Bajrang Dal activists blocked National Highway 34. Though there was a big police force present, no one prevented the activists from blocking the road till afternoon. The bandh supporters also locked post offices.

“We have no orders to chase the bandh supporters away or resort to a lathi-charge. We are only here to ensure that there is no violence,” said policemen posted on the highway. The road was, however, cleared in the afternoon.

District magistrate Ashok Bala said barring stray incidents, the bandh was peaceful. He said 40 supporters were arrested for picketing in front of the treasury office and preventing employees from attending office.

In South 24-Parganas, train services in the Canning and Lakshmikantapur sections were disrupted for more than six hours after VHP supporters blocked the tracks.

Railway officials said some people put iron bars and wooden logs across the tracks at Canning. Six VHP activists were arrested from here. At Lakshmikantapur station, VHP activists threw banana leaves on the overhead wires, obstructing movement of trains.

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