| A smashed mannequin in the Nike showroom in Calcutta that was vandalised by anti-war protesters. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, April 2: Bus fare or Baghdad, the cause may vary, but the crash is common.
Millions are marching across the world to denounce the war on Iraq but it is only in Calcutta where a small group of protesters breaks the glass-front of a multinational company’s showroom.
It was the third case of vandalism in as many days this week: Monday was the day of breaking windscreens of state transport buses — some were set afire — Tuesday was the day of mounting a guerrilla attack on police in front of Writers’ Buildings and Wednesday was the day of stoning Nike, a US-headquartered sports goods maker.
The first two were against the bus and taxi fare hike.
Today, less than 20 youths belonging to Naxalite factions stormed the Nike showroom on Shakespeare Sarani and then marched off after asking frightened workers, all of them Indians, to “quit India”.
Before that, however, they had defaced the showroom, smashed the glass-front and vented their ire on the computers. They left after a 20-minute ‘operation’.
“They started assembling around 1.45 pm and threw the first stone 15 minutes later. Then they entered the showroom and damaged everything,” shopowner Kamal Kumar Jain said. “I have lodged a complaint and asked police for protection.”
Naxalite factions saw nothing wrong in their form of protest. Some of those who feel strongly about Iraq are volunteering to be suicide bombers — the Islamic Jihad of Palestine, for instance. Instead of breaking defenceless glass showrooms, can’t these Naxalite protesters send suicide squads' No reply.
Can’t they at least send human shields' Many have gone to Iraq or are waiting in neighbouring countries from all over the world, including India.
“We will mull over the scope of sending human shields,” said a spokesperson for the Liberation faction of the CPI(M-L).
“What’s important is the spirit of protest,” he added.
The “spirit of protest” does not forget to alert photographers to the impending event. There was a media posse at the spot, but the police knew nothing.
“We are aware of the threat many such outlets face from the fringe Left groups,” home secretary Amit Kiran Deb said. “We are acting on this.”
There is no panic but some are taking precautions. The manager of a Reebok showroom (across the street from competitor Nike), Sanchita Das, said: “We approached Shakespeare Sarani police and they promised us two men.”
About today’s incident, she said she had “heard” that a boy and a girl entered the Nike showroom and asked if the company was American' The answer was ‘yes’. The girl picked up a paperweight and threw it on the floor, kicking off the action.
They might not be in the battlefield of Iraq, but the protesters did leave behind at least one grievously injured mannequin.