The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Blot or two on ‘peaceful’ bandh

Nov. 12: Except for a few stray incidents, the Bengal-wide bandh called by opposition parties was peaceful today.

Around 300 supporters of the Trinamul Congress and Congress were arrested from the six districts of north Bengal for staging protests and attempting to block roads and railway tracks.

Private transport, banks, educational institutions, shops and business establishments remained shut throughout the day. Government offices were open with poor attendance.

In Malda, Trinamul Congress supporters blocked the Gour Link Express bound for Balurghat this morning by entering the signal room and jamming the signals. Gautam Chakraborty, the zilla parishad sabhadipathi and a Congress leader, was thwarted by police from entering the district collectorate campus with some party supporters.

“We were leading a peaceful demonstration. The police without provocation detained us and even assaulted our supporters,” Chakraborty alleged. Sujit Sarkar, the Malda additional superintendent of police, however, denied the charge and said only aggressive Congress supporters were stopped.

Malda district magistrate Chittaranjan Das confirmed the low attendance at the collectorate and block offices. Being a Congress stronghold, there were widespread protests in several places of the town.

The bandh was incident-free and peaceful in Cooch Behar. District leaders of parties like the Trinamul, Congress, SUCI and CPI(ML) took out rallies in several places. No arrests were reported till evening.

In North Dinajpur, 55 bandh supporters were arrested. Tension brewed at Gitanjali cinema hall when members of the Congress attacked Shibu Biswas, a tea-stall owner who had opened his shop, this morning. He suffered burn injuries when bandh supporters allegedly threw boiled water on him. No complaint has been lodged so far.

Swapan Banerjee Purnapatra, the North Dinajpur district superintendent of police, said the situation was normal. Residents extended support to the strike. “Though I am linked to a CPM-affiliated association, I preferred to stay home and vent my protest on what is going on in Nandigram,” said Bikash Saha, a teacher of the town.

The Jalpaiguri police arrested 200 bandh supporters from different parts of the district. Some of them blocked railway tracks at Raninagar, Nagrakata and Haldibari in neighbouring Cooch Behar to stall train movement. Trinamul supporters took out rallies and staged protests at Kadamtala, Post Office More and PWD More. They were whisked away by the police.

The Jalpaiguri Youth Congress performed the shradh (last rites) of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and CPM state secretary Biman Bose. Their effigies were burnt, shradh performed and even khichri distributed among the people. “Both of them are responsible for the death of innocent people in Nandigram and so we organised their last rites,” said Joy Chatterjee, the district Youth Congress president.

In South Dinajpur, three bandh supporters were arrested. The situation turned volatile at Gangarampur after an attack on Bappai Roy, a Trinamul worker, allegedly by CPM activists. Soon after, Trinamul supporters assaulted Boren Mitra, a CPM councillor of the local municipality. He was admitted to Balurghat hospital later.

In Siliguri, bandh supporters damaged a government bus, an ambulance allegedly carrying CPM supporters, and a doctor’s car this morning when it was passing a Trinamul procession. They also damaged two ATM counters in the city.

Both Trinamul and Congress took out rallies on Hill Cart Road. Rajesh Yadav, the additional superintendent of police of Siliguri, said 16 rallyists were arrested. Jibitesh Sarkar, CPM state secretariat member, who refused to call the bandh a success, alleged that Trinamul supporters had ransacked the office at a high school in Bagdogra and abused the teachers.

The bandh had a mixed impact on tea gardens. While most remained closed for Diwali, some Citu strongholds remained open. A few others remained closed due to the strike called by the Intuc.

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