| SUCI rallyists hold Chowringhee to ransom around 1 pm on Friday. Picture by Amit Datta
Calcutta, Oct. 10: Talk no rally, hear no rally; much less see one.
If Day One of the administration’s rally-test is a guide, law-keepers starting from the chief minister down to the policeman on duty have chosen to keep theirs mouths shut, ears plugged and eyes closed to violations of Justice Amitava Lala’s order.
The Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) and the CPI(M-L) Liberation today became the pioneering violators of the order prohibiting rallies between 8 am and 8 pm on working days.
They got away with it, as the police refused to admit that rallies had taken place in the city.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee turned his back to the fact that central Calcutta had experienced processions and blockades.
Quizzed about the two traffic-blocking programmes and tomorrow’s proposed one (by the People’s Relief Committee, a CPM front), which would be “received and addressed” by him at Moulali Yuba Kendra, Bhattacharjee said he would not talk.
“Shab proshner uttor hoy na (Every question does not have an answer).”
He wouldn’t hear either, laughingly adding: “Ami apnar proshno shuntei pai ni (I could not hear your query).”
Deputy commissioner (headquarters) Kuldiep Singh insisted that no CPI(M-L) Liberation rally was held. The SUCI convention, to which party activists came in a phalanx, had people coming in ones and twos, he said.
Singh added that his force did their duty by cracking down on another SUCI blockade earlier in the afternoon.
The leaders of the two parties were ecstatic. CPI(M-L) Liberation leader Kartik Pal promised more on October 22 — the day the chief minister would try to talk the Indonesian Salim Group into investing in the state.
SUCI leader Swapan Basu, too, said the party was happy with the day’s events and promised repeats.
But the honours went to CPI(M-L) Liberation. Using 200-odd activists, it blocked Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road, S.. Banerjee Road and Dharmatala Street for more than an hour.
The procession started from Wellington Square and the slogans echoed those raised by Left Front chairman Biman Bose, asking the judge to “go back”. Making it clear that the party would not obey the verdict, it asked the judiciary to pass verdicts against retrenchments and forced retirement of labour.
With the police being all politeness — there were “Ektu chepe (Please leave some space for others)” requests aplenty — the rally took over the heart of the city.
“Puro rasta jure (Take up all the road)” and “Arektu aste (Take your time)” orders were given out by the shepherds to their flock whenever an auto-rickshaw managed to squeeze its way through.
The rally found time to stop at Esplanade East for 10 minutes, where Pal gave a brief speech and then longer bites to the electronic media. The return journey to the party’s Creek Row office was even slower.
The SUCI convention was held at the University Institute Hall in the evening where speakers roundly criticised the judiciary.
But its blockade in the afternoon at Esplanade East was more successful. Around 50 activists converged on the busy crossing, shouted themselves hoarse against Justice Lala’s ruling and the hike in transport fares.
Initially, the police let the SUCI disturb life before the traditional enmity with the party got the better of them.