The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Block rally there, boost rally here

What police in Calcutta have failed to do forever, their counterparts in Salt Lake achieved without much of a fuss on Friday — blocking a rally before it could block the road.

Even as Salt Lake police were stopping a rare michhil in the township, in callous contrast, Calcutta Police was busy preparing an audio-visual line of defence to prove there was no real reason to stop a rally, after all. Having filmed all rallies following Justice Amitava Lala’s September 29 order, Lalbazar is now busy editing the video footage to prove there has been no rally-related traffic disruption on the city streets.

Friday morning’s rally at Salt Lake’s Baisakhi, by businessmen and local residents, had been organised to protest cop failure in arresting three constables of the Fourth Battalion, accused of misbehaving with some girls and then going on the rampage during a musical soiree last Sunday. “They had decided to hold a protest meeting and then stage a rally from Baisakhi housing complex to my office,” said Ajay Nand, additional superintendent of police, Salt Lake. “They had not sought our permission. A large contingent of was sent to the spot.”

The force, led by officer-in-charge of Bidhannagar (East) police station Somenath Chakraborty, found 400 protesters assembled in front of the housing complex. “We first requested the rallyists to call off their programme. When they refused, we blocked their path and threatened to arrest them. At this, the crowd dispersed. Later, a section of them submitted a memorandum,” said Nand.

Biswambar Das, secretary of AG Block Baisakhi Merchant’s Association, later said: “We wanted to protest against police inaction. We were not allowed to rally, but were convinced by senior officers that justice would be done.”

Less than 10 km away, police in the heart of the city were spending hours examining video recordings of all recent rallies — not to chalk out a plan to minimise disruption but to deny any disruption. Officials of the Special Branch had earlier been instructed to record the entire route of the rallies. “This move was initiated following Justice Lala’s order restricting rallies in weekday Calcutta. We were asked to prove that there was no traffic snarl on the city roads through which the rallies had passed,” said a Special Branch officer.

A group of seven from the department is working on the crucial case, with newspaper clippings and photographs showing smooth flow of traffic also being compiled.

“We want to be prepared if the advocate-general calls us during the hearing in high court. If needed, we will hand over the video recordings and clippings,” said Kuldiep Singh, deputy commissioner of police (headquarters).

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