The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pamper 'n' punish police
- Santan Dal slapped with car crawl cases, Trinamul and CPM spared

On July 24, when some 700 supporters of Santan Dal took to the streets for a protest rally, mid-day traffic flow was hit, from Shyambazar to Esplanade.

Just another day of traffic trauma in a town of traffic-stoppers' No way, roared the cops. Within 24 hours, Calcutta Police had ripped a page out of Ripley's. Believe it or not, three cases were slapped on Santan Dal, in three separate police stations, for going ahead with a rally 'without police permission'.

On July 21, nearly 50,000 Trinamul Congress supporters, led by Mamata Banerjee, had gathered to mark 'martyr's day' on Central Avenue, paralysing mid-day traffic in the city centre for over four hours.

Just another day of traffic trauma in a town of traffic-stoppers' Of course, mewed the cops, for the Trinamul protest meet was a 'tradition'.

A few days before that, on July 19, a CPM rally on Rani Rashmoni Avenue, attended by Biman Bose, had added to the woes of a waterlogged city. The cops had then cooed that there was nothing they could possibly do.

Three raps for Santan Dal, and not even a reprimand for Trinamul or CPM' The punish versus pamper divide in the police lines, when it comes to protest rallies in the city, could not be more stark.

'We will surely contest the case against us, but first let the people of the state decide if this is discrimination or not,' said Chitta Sikdar, secretary of Santan Dal.

'This is almost amusing' Were the cases slapped because ours' was a protest against the Union government and the CPM-led government did not like it, or simply because we are a soft target' asked Sikdar.

When asked about the obvious double standards, Pradip Chattopadhayay, deputy commissioner (headquarters), was pat: 'One has to assess the ground reality and decide. In the case of Santan Dal, there was no permission at all and, therefore, the cases of violation. The Trinamul meeting we had neither opposed nor given permission. Moreover, the July 21 rally is an accepted norm.'

That's precisely the Trinamul party line. 'The July 21 rally has been held for the past few years and we always seek permission for it,' said general secretary Mukul Roy.

The CPM was quick to give itself a clean chit. 'Holding rallies without police permission is illegal and we never do so,' claimed Calcutta District Committee leader Rabin Deb.

Police sources said they couldn't remember the last time CPM-backed rallyists had bothered about permission.

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