| Quota protesters paint their slogans at the Darga Road-New Park Street crossing, bringing traffic to a standstill. Some commuters got off public transport and entered into an argument with the agitating students and junior doctors. A scuffle that could have turned ugly was averted by police. Pictures by Amit Datta and Aranya Sen
Two strategic roadblocks, and a thousand medical students and junior doctors managed to paralyse traffic on Wednesday afternoon.
There was some relief, though, for those denied prompt medical attention on Wednesday, when the Bengal state branch of Indian Medical Association (IMA) said it would not participate in Thursday's nationwide strike.
'Our headquarters told us to take a decision in accordance with the ground reality. We have decided not to join the strike, as it will cause unnecessary harassment to patients,' said Swapan Nag, secretary, IMA Bengal branch, even urging the medical students to call off their protest movement.
'We don't know what the IMA is going to do, but we are going to observe a ceasework at city hospitals on Thursday. We will intensify our movement gradually till the authorities are forced to roll back the reservation drive,' said Kaustav Das Biswas, member of Youth for Equality, protesting at the Darga Road-New Park Street crossing.
The first anti-reservation roadblock was set up at this crossing around 2.30 pm, and continued till 4.20 pm.
At the busy CR Avenue-BB Ganguly Street, medical students started assembling at 3.20 pm, and stayed put till 5.30 pm.
'Both roadblocks threw traffic out of gear in east and central Calcutta. We had to divert vehicles to deal with the situation,' said Jawed Shamim, deputy commissioner of police (traffic).
Due to the twin roadblocks, cars were reduced to a standstill or a crawl on the Park Circus-EM Bypass connector, Amherst Street, SN Banerjee Road, Lenin Sarani, AJC Bose Road, MG Road and CR Avenue.
The agitators first congregated at Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital and marched to the Darga Road-New Park Street crossing.
There were around 300 medical students and junior doctors, including a large number of women, who created a circular human chain and laid siege to the crossing.
Some medical students lined up with begging bowls. 'We are begging for moral, not financial, support of the common people,' explained Mousumi Kar, second-year MBBS student.
But the likes of Jayanta Chakraborty, a resident of Jessore Road, were not impressed. 'I had to reach home early on some urgent work but I have been stranded here for two hours. Police should never allow such demonstrations that disrupt normal life,' he said.
So why choose this rally site and hold a part of the city to ransom' 'We had to take this decision as the government is unmoved by our repeated appeals,' said Satyajit Das, another member of Youth for Equality.
'Sonia Gandhi hai hai' Arjun Singh hai hai' The cries reverberated from Park Circus to CR Avenue, where hundreds of students from Medical College and RG Kar Medical College did not budge till a police nudge.
'To hell with politics. We want equality based on merit. Nobody is bothered about the backward classes; only the votes that come from them matter,' shouted a group of students, painting their protest slogans on CR Avenue.
'This is a crucial junction. Traffic on all four sides was halted for two hours. We requested them to lift the roadblock around 5.30 pm,' said Ajoy Kumar, deputy commissioner (central).