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Net curbs, peace initiative in Bengal

Some vandalism and blockades were reported on Sunday but the disruptions was lower compared with the past two days
Police escort a protest rally in Nadia on Sunday.

Our Special Correspondent   |   Calcutta   |   Published 15.12.19, 09:55 PM

The Mamata Banerjee government on Sunday suspended Internet services in parts of Bengal to thwart mischief-makers and nudged community leaders to help ensure the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens remained peaceful and democratic.

Train services between north Bengal and the rest of the state were cut off after protesters vandalised a station in Malda. (See Page 6)

Instances of vandalism and blockades were reported on Sunday but the scale of the disruptions appeared lower than that on the past two days.

Sources in the ruling establishment said back-channel talks were on with community leaders and civil society members, who were being urged to see that the protests remained democratic and non-violent.

The chief minister held a meeting at her residence with the top brass of the state’s civil and police administration. “She said all attempts to provoke and foment tension must be nipped in the bud and those behind such activities must be dealt with firmly in accordance with the law of the land,” said a source.

“She told the administration to take a zero-tolerance approach towards attempts to destabilise the state by misguiding the protests,” the source added.

With a day left before Mamata leads a march in Calcutta, her party set the stage by conducting rallies at the block and ward levels across the state while advocating a non-violent agitation.

Government sources said Internet services had been suspended in Malda, North Dinajpur, Murshidabad, Howrah, North 24-Parganas and the Baruipur and Canning sub-divisions of South 24-Parganas as a precaution against malicious rumours and fake news stoking tension and violence.

“Certain outfits with vested interests were trying to turn the protests violent through rumour-mongering. So the administration decided to temporarily suspend Internet services in the most vulnerable areas,” a government source said.

A prominent religious leader in the city said senior Trinamul politicians had asked him to send out messages of non-violence.

“People like me, we have been doing our bit along with the administration to ensure that the spontaneous reaction to the pain is not misused by people with malicious intent. Sunday was a lot calmer than Friday and Saturday. The situation will improve further,” he said. “The secular nature of the protests must be retained. This is what I’m trying to get people to understand.”

Trinamul began its promised “No CAA, No NRC” rallies in the afternoon, focusing equally on appealing to the agitators to ensure the BJP did not get a chance to divide the people over the nature of the protests.

“We have reason to believe that (BJP state unit chief) Dilip Ghosh and his associates have been paying people to foment trouble so they can bake their political bread over the flames,” minister and Calcutta mayor Firhad Hakim alleged. “People have to see through these sinister designs. Mamata Banerjee herself has promised that neither the CAA nor the NRC will be implemented in Bengal. She will hit the streets from tomorrow.”

  • Mamata is scheduled to lead a march from B.R. Ambedkar’s statue on Red Road from 1pm on Monday. The march will go past the Gandhi statue on Mayo Road and end at Rabindranath Tagore’s home in Jorasanko.
  • On Tuesday, a march that Mamata is likely to lead will start at 1pm from the 8B bus stand in Jadavpur and end at Jadubabu’s Bazar in Bhowanipore via Prince Anwar Shah Road.
  • A third march, possibly without the chief minister, will start from Howrah Maidan at 1pm on Wednesday and end at the Dorina Crossing in Esplanade.

“Mamata will seize the reins of this mass movement and prevent it turning wayward,” a Trinamul MP said.

“She wants to take the movement to the national level but is intent on keeping it secular and democratic to make sure that no section feels ignored or un-represented in this fight for the idea of India.”


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