| (Left to right) Meera Bhattacharjee is stopped at Park Circus by bandh supporters and then allowed to go as one of the leaders, a Citu and CPM member, recognises her; On way to Writers’ Buildings, chief minister tells rallyists not to block road and to allow people to go to work; Bhattacharjee arrives at Writers’ to find driveway flooded and has to take another entrance. Finds both lifts not working.
Calcutta, Sept. 29: Meera Bhattacharjee would have felt, if briefly, the helpless rage that courses through a citizen’s veins when trampled upon by organised groups.
Maybe, husband Buddhadeb would have got an inkling of the blind ' and powerless ' anger that surges to the head when a family member is insulted by a mob.
The chief minister’s wife was accosted by a group of bandh supporters who stopped her car on her way to office. “Where are you headed' It’s a bandh today,” challenged one of the 200 Citu/CPM members who had gathered at Park Circus, blocking the Santro around 8.30 am.
She was not travelling in the regulation white Ambassador provided by police.
“I am on my way to office, I want to work today, I don’t think you have any right to stop those willing to work on a strike day,” said Meera, who works as a librarian in a private company.
The mob surrounded her car, some began to thump on all sides. She stepped out. “What do you think you are doing, is it some kind of a joke'” she shouted. “Who is your leader, call him,” police officers present at the spot quoted her as saying.
A man came forward, the leader. One look at him and Meera exploded: “Jahar, how come you have stopped my car'” she asked. Jahar Dasgupta is a member of the CPM’s Calcutta District Committee as well as of the Calcutta unit of Citu.
“Meeradi, aapnar gaari' bhul hoye gechhey (Meeradi, your car, sorry, it’s a mistake),” he said, letting her move on.
Later, he told The Telegraph that “the boys had over-reached. They had stopped the wrong car. We are sorry.”
There is then a “right” car and a “wrong” car ' a class system in cars that the CPM recognises.
All day the incident tormented the chief minister and his party. Jyoti Basu said: “They should have allowed people to move freely.”
| (From top) Chief minister trudges up the stairs to office. CM in foul mood, says an officer; Is he giving the police commissioner a piece of his mind'
A grim-faced CPM state secretary Anil Biswas said: “I am aware of the incident' people responsible have been warned.”
What about the ambulances stopped, the trains carrying patients from Vellore detained'
Half an hour later, when the chief minister passed by Park Circus, he looked out of his car for a close view of the group that had gathered there. At 11.15, on his way to Writers’ Buildings from the party headquarters on Alimuddin Street, Bhattacharjee saw a procession at the crossing of Park Street and Russell Street and stepped out of the car.
“Jor kore kauke aatkaben na, jara bandh korbe koruk. Kintu jara jete chay, tader jor korben na (Please don’t stop people. Let those who want to observe the bandh do so, but don’t force others),” he told them.
Thursday was a bad day for the chief minister. First trouble for his wife, then as he reached Writers’ Buildings he found the driveway filled with more than ankle-deep water. Cleaning staff weren’t around.
He had to take a detour. Then the VIP lift was found to be out of order as maintenance staff had struck work. The general lift could not operate as the liftman had joined the strike.
An official, who was in the chief minister’s office, said: “CM was in a foul mood.”
When he emerged at lunch break, his face was stony.
“Was your wife stopped and heckled'”
“Would you call the bandh successful'”
“Isn’t the state sending a bad message to investors'”