9000 held, minus violence

Nearly 9,000 protesters were arrested from Jharkhand on Monday as part of the Bharat Bandh called by the Congress and backed by over 20 Opposition parties to protest the rising fuel prices and falling rupee.

  • Published 11.09.18
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Senior Congress leader Subodh Kanth Sahay (in black bundi) on Main Road in Ranchi on Monday. Picture by Prashant Mitra

Ranchi/Koderma/Palamau: Nearly 9,000 protesters were arrested from Jharkhand on Monday as part of the Bharat Bandh called by the Congress and backed by over 20 Opposition parties to protest the rising fuel prices and falling rupee.

While the state BJP claimed the bandh was a "flop", the Congress pointed out its impact and Opposition unity despite the "bandh call given at short notice".

A communiqué from Ran-chi police headquarters said 8,784 protestors were arrested during the bandh, the most from East Singhbhum (831) and the least from Khunti (30). In Ranchi, 650 were held.

Trucks, buses and autos, were largely hit and many schools and colleges stayed closed, the six-hour bandh that ended at 3pm was peaceful. Police bandobast coupled with largely disciplined bandh supporters ensured this. Government offices, banks and business establishments were open but attendance was thinner than usual.

Political heavyweights who courted arrests were veteran Congressman Subodh Kant Sahay and RJD state president Annapurna Devi in Ranchi, Congress state president Ajoy Kumar in Jamshedpur, Congress MLA Sukhdeo Bhagat and his party's Rajya Sabha MP Dheeraj Prasad Sahu in Lohardaga, Congress MLAs Alamgir Alam and Irfan Ansari in Pakur and Jamtara, respectively, and CPI-ML (Liberation) general secretary Deepankar Bhattacharya, his party MLA Raj Kumar Yadav and others in Koderma.

Former chief ministers Hemant Soren (JMM) and Babulal Marandi (JVM) were in Delhi for the protest.

Two out-of-the-way incidents occurred in Giridih and Palamau. In Giridih, bandh supporters tried to stop a passenger train, but police foiled it. Finally, protesters sat on dharna near tracks near the station and courted arrests.

In Daltonganj, Palamau district unit Congress president Ranjan Pathak alias Bittu Pathak fell unconscious while urging shop owners and commuters to observe bandh, and was rushed to the sadar hospital.

In capital's bureaucratic citadels Project Building and Nepal House, babus were engaged in dissecting the impact of the bandh and BJP prospects in 2019 general elections.

State unit BJP spokesman Pratul Shahdeo called a news conference to claim the bandh had "flopped miserably". He however rued that over 5 lakh manual labourers could not earn their bread for the day because of the bandh.

He also ridiculed Hemant Soren and Babulal Marandi for making their presence before Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in Delhi while their party workers struggled on the streets of Jharkhand.

Refuting this, senior Congress leader Subodh Kant Sahay said the success of the nationwide bandh "called in just four days" was in itself living proof that the masses were fed up of the BJP rule and Opposition unity was strong.

JMM general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya said the Raghubar Das government should take lessons from the bandh and withdraw VAT on fuel and domestic LPG refills.

JMM 'low profile'

Though JMM executive president Hemant Soren took part in protest led by Congress in Delhi, back home in Jharkhand, where it is the main Opposition party, JMM cadres largely maintained a low profile, raising eyebrows on the Congress-JMM friendship.

JMM general secretary Supriyo Bhattacharya ruled out any controversy and said many party members were busy with birth anniversary celebrations of late Durga Soren, elder son of party patriarch Shibu Soren. "The party has extended support to Congress-sponsored bandh," he said.

A JMM leader in Khunti however called it a Congress bandh. "When the JMM calls a bandh, you see our might."

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