The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Subhas lends voice to bandh brigade
- Court order cannot change everything, says minister

Calcutta, Dec. 2: The CPM and its allies today ranged themselves against the high court's order to stop organising bandhs and strikes with many of the leaders openly criticising the ruling.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee declined comment, but Subhas Chakraborty, the transport minister, did not mince words.

'Bandhs are an accepted form of protest all over the world, dating back to the 19th century,' said Chakraborty, a senior member of the cabinet and a Citu functionary.

'The court will do its job, we in the government or in the parties will do ours. One or two court orders cannot change everything.

'I wonder whether the court is ideally placed to decide on who or when a strike or bandh can be called,' he added.

All the Left Front partners, opposed to the 12-hour bandh called by the Trinamul Congress tomorrow, felt that the court was trying to 'take away from them the right to protest'.

In private, many of these leaders admitted that bandhs are losing relevance but, at the same time, they were not ready to give up their 'right', lest their constituencies were lost. Most of them saw in the orders an attempt to curb the political weapon to realise popular demands.

Though the allies backed the CPM in its call for a debate over whether the recent orders were passed to curb the parties' right to organise protests, they also felt that bandhs were often called on flimsy grounds.

Forward Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh called for a national debate to see whether the judiciary was overstepping limits by banning bandhs, which he described as a 'constitutional right'.

'Even during British rule, the judiciary did not pass such orders. It is not possible for the people and political parties to accept orders intended to destroy the democratic fabric of the country,' said Ghosh.

However, another leader of his party felt that the Left outfits themselves went for frequent bandhs over minor issues in the 1970s.

'The CPM and other Left parties used to call bandhs often and the issues were not that important,' he said.

Another front partner, the RSP, felt a nationwide campaign should be initiated to alert people about the orders 'meant to curb the democratic rights of the parties and citizens'.

Sunil Sengupta, a party central council member, said: 'The orders give an impression that the judiciary is trying to intrude into politics.'

He admitted that bandhs and strikes adversely affected Bengal in the 1970s and added that 'no party should disturb life over petty issues'.

The CPI shared the views of the other junior front partners. 'We have respect for the judiciary and we don't want it to pass an order that might go against people's rights or sentiment,' said a senior leader who did not want to be named.

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