Calcutta, Oct 11: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today chose to address a gathering of party faithfuls who marched through the city streets in a procession, defying Justice Amitava Lala’s recent directive banning rallies from 8 am to 8 pm on weekdays.
Legal experts said “in spirit” this was “an indirect endorsement” of the CPM’s decision to violate the Calcutta High Court order. “The chief minister’s decision to address such a gathering implies that he indirectly supports their act of defiance,” state bar council executive chairman Uttam Majumdar said.
Exactly a week ago, Left Front chairman Biman Bose had announced that front partners would take out processions in violation of the order and that he was “ready to go to jail” for it.
Bhattacharjee addressed the gathering at Moulali Yuva Kendra on the occasion of the diamond jubilee celebrations of the People’s Relief Committee (PRC), a CPM-dominated voluntary organisation connected with relief work. Senior leaders like former chief minister Jyoti Basu, industry minister Nirupam Sen and senior leader Samar Mukherjee also spoke.
A 3,000-strong procession of PRC volunteers, which started from the organisation headquarters on Dilkhusha Street near Park Circus at 2.40 pm, disrupted traffic along A.J.C. Bose Road at its intersections with Shakespeare Sarani, Park Street, Eliot Road, S.. Banerjee Road and Moulali. The rallyists brought traffic to a complete standstill at Moulali’s seven-point crossing before reaching the venue.
Claiming that today’s procession did not disrupt traffic, state CPM secretary Anil Biswas said “we have to organise processions from time to time, whatever may be the court’s order”.
Front chairman Bose, who walked the whole way with PRC volunteers, did not attend the meeting because of “other urgent preoccupations”. Two CPM ministers, Mohammad Selim and Pratyush Mukherjee, also walked a few metres with Bose, but soon decided it would be more prudent to go by car.
The rallyists included Abirlal Mukherjee, former minister Partha De, CPM women’s wing veteran leader and former MP Kanak Mukherjee, Jorabagan legislator Sudhanshu Sil and CPM Calcutta district committee secretary Raghunath Kushari.
Over 300 sports lovers also joined the procession under the banner of “Friends of the Stadium” controlled by transport minister Subhas Chakraborty.
The procession was virtually escorted by a huge police contingent, including a few sergeants followed by two police vans carrying armed forces. After marching down Circus Avenue, it reached Shakespeare Sarani and blocked it totally. Several private cars, buses and mini buses were stranded for about 20 minutes.
A few private cars managed to pass through but others had to beat a retreat as the rallyists threatened them with “dire consequences”. The vehicles, coming in from the by-lanes, were not allowed to enter Shakespeare Sarani by the rallyists as well as the traffic police.
A traffic sergeant escorting the procession pleaded helplessness in maintaining normal vehicular movement. Asked why he was allowing the procession to pass despite the court order, he said: “Why are you asking me about the high court order' I have been directed by higher authorities to see that the procession goes off peacefully.”
When the procession reached A.J.C. Bose Road, the entire Moulali-bound traffic came to a standstill. Vehicles coming from the central business district towards Eastern Metropolitan Bypass got stranded at Mullick Bazar near the Park Street-A.J.C. Bose Road crossing. However, there were a few occasions when the Left Front leaders, including Bose, directed the PRC volunteers to allow the stranded vehicles to move to ease traffic snarls.