| PASSAGE RIGHTS: A Naxalite procession protesting the high court’s restrict-rally ruling, marches down Esplanade on Wednesday. Police remained polite spectators, while vehicular traffic came to a standstill. Picture by Pabitra Das
No entry for one, all but free passage for two — the cop’s rally code of conduct on Wednesday.
For Krishak Goraksha Samity, it was a case of third time unlucky. Police thwarted its members’ efforts to take out yet another rally by arresting them on College Street, starting point for the procession.
But the CPM-controlled West Bengal Medical and Sales Representatives Union and a Naxalite congregation faced no such problems, as they marched down the streets and threw afternoon traffic out of gear in central Calcutta. Police stayed on the sidelines as polite witnesses.
Chief whip and senior CPM leader Rabin Deb, also president of the medical union, insisted that the processionists had stuck to one side of the road and not held up traffic.
Around 1,000 members of the medical union, demanding state and central action against the menace of fake medicines, was all it took to disrupt traffic, from 2 pm, from Entally market, where it started, to Rani Rashmoni Avenue, where it concluded.
What made matters worse was the decision by eight Naxalite factions to take to the streets to protest the high court’s order restricting rally hours on weekdays. The processionists raised slogans against the court’s “attempts to suppress the people’s democratic right to organise rallies”.
This march terminated at the Esplanade Metro station, after passing through Raja Subodh Mullick Square, Nirmal Chandra Street, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road and SN Banerjee Road. The medical union marchers took the AJC Bose Road-Moulali-SN Banerjee Road route to Esplanade.
As the two processions hit the streets almost simultaneously, vehicular traffic came to a standstill. The large number of policemen, who had arrested madarsa marchers by the hundreds on Tuesday, “escorted” the twin rallies to their destinations, but failed to curb traffic snarls.
Before flagging off the procession, the medical union leaders had urged the rallyists to stick to the left of the road, leaving the rest open to traffic. But this could not prevent serious traffic congestion on SN Banerjee Road and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road.
“It took me about an hour to reach Esplanade from Moulali, less than two km away. How can anyone work in this city'’’ grumbled P.K. Roy, an engineer, stranded near the Calcutta Municipal Corporation building. Deputy commissioner of police (headquarters) Kuldiep Singh denied the rallies crippled traffic. “We maintained a smooth flow,” he said.