Sept. 20: Trinamul workers today hit the streets of north Bengal, particularly in places that are Congress strongholds, to foil the strike and drive home the point that their party is the bigger force in the region.
Workers of Trinamul encouraged people in the Congress strongholds of North Dinajpur, Malda and Cooch Behar to defy the general strike called by the Left Front and go to work and keep shops and other establishments running, sparking clashes in several places with CPM activists.
Congress sources said the party did not oppose the bandh because there was no instruction from the high command or the state Congress leaders on the matter. On record, however, no Congress leader was willing to speak on the issue.
The Left’s 12-hour strike was called to protest the diesel price hike, FDI in retail and the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders.
Trinamul leaders held up the Congress’s “inaction” as an example of the party’s “tacit understanding” with the CPM.
Bikash Choudhury, a Trinamul leader in North Dinajpur, which is the fief of Congress MP and Mamata Banerjee-baiter Deepa Das Munshi, said: “Our local MP (Deepa) claims that the district is a Congress stronghold but today, no party worker was seen opposing the bandh.
“The Congress’s silence has made it evident that the party has a tacit understanding with the CPM. The Congress does not want to antagonise the CPM ahead of the panchayat polls, where it will have to contest alone. This is the Congress’s ploy to win more seats in the rural polls and the next Lok Sabha elections,” he said.
In Malda too, Trinamul supporters tried to foil the strike.
“Not a single Congress leader was seen in the district today. Our party workers helped people defy the bandh and keep life moving,” said Sabitri Mitra, the women and child welfare minister and district Trinamul president.
“We think the Congress’s silence has got something to do with its relationship with the CPM. The bandh was called against the decisions of the Congress-led UPA, but the party’s leaders remained indoors and showed no concern for people.”
Congress leaders Adhir Chowdhury and Mausam Noor attended a rally in South Dinajpur but did not speak on the bandh.
In Siliguri, north Bengal development minister and Trinamul leader Gautam Deb went around the city requesting people to defy the strike. “We fail to understand why the Congress did not oppose the strike. The leaders seem to be least bothered about the interest of the people of the region,” he said.
But despite Trinamul’s efforts, the bandh was near total in most parts of north Bengal.
In the two Dinajpurs, Jalpaiguri, Malda and Cooch Behar, private establishments, educational institutions, most banks and shops and markets remained closed. Private vehicles kept off the roads. Government offices were open but the attendance was low in some places. Government buses plied on the roads.
The strike, however, did not have any impact in the three hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong. Tea gardens were open.
Scattered incidents of violence were reported from some places. Around 7am in Raiganj, bandh supporters threw stones at an NBSTC bus plying on the Kaliaganj-Siliguri route at BBD More. The windscreen was shattered and driver Apurba Roychoudhury and a passenger suffered head injuries.
In Panishala on the outskirts of Raiganj town later in the day, alleged Left supporters stopped another government bus and pelted it with stones. The passengers fled. Driver Ranjit Pal suffered injuries. Both drivers were admitted to the Raiganj district hospital.Trinamul and CPM supporters clashed in front of the District Primary Education Project office. Police brought the situation under control.
In Cooch Behar, alleged Trinamul supporters assaulted SUCI workers who were enforcing the strike.The Trinamul supporters, led by youth leader Rajeev Narayan, beat up the 10-odd SUCI workers, including two women, with rods and sticks at Harish Pal More on Suniti Road.
“We had stopped an NBSTC bus when the Trinamul supporters armed with party flags attacked us. They did not even spare the women. One of our leaders, Bashad Ali, suffered serious injuries,” said Nepal Mitra, the Cooch Behar town committee secretary of the SUCI. The police arrested five SUCI workers, including the two women, on the charge of disrupting normal life. “Once they are released, we will file an FIR against Narayan and his accomplices,” Mitra said.
District Trinamul chief Rabindranath Ghosh denied the party’s involvement in the attack. “The SUCI workers faced the passengers’ wrath for stopping their bus.”