CPM’s 'Insaaf' rally chokes heart of Calcutta
An Insaaf meet (rally for justice) called by the CPM’s student and youth organisations — SFI and DYFI — in Calcutta apparently stunned the administration in terms of its size and the leadership’s sudden decision to shift the venue from the Y-Channel in Esplanade to the Lenin Sarani-Chowringhee Road crossing that left the heart of the city choked for over three hours on Tuesday.
A crowd of over 40,000 young men and women, who had come from all over the state to demand justice for “martyrs”, including Anis Khan who had died on February 20 at Amta in Howrah, laid siege to one of the busiest thoroughfares. DYFI state secretary Minakshi Mukherji exhorted the gathering to turn back and move out of the overflowing Y-Channel and head towards Victoria House at the C.R Avenue and Bentinck Street crossing.
“We had told the police that Y-Channel would be inadequate for our meeting. But they didn’t listen to us. Now they will have to deal with the situation... show responsibility and slowly head towards where we had wanted to hold the meeting but the police did not give us permission,” Mukherji said.
The original plan was to hold the meeting in front of Victoria House, where the Trinamul Congress organises its July 21 annual martyrs’ day event.
However, Mukherji and her colleagues had previously complained that although the programme had been announced several weeks ago, the police had refused to allow them to hold the meeting in front of Victoria House. Instead, the police designated the Y-Channel for the event.
A makeshift stage was also set up in the designated area. However, as soon as three predetermined rallies — from Howrah, Sealdah and Calcutta — reached Y-Channel, the crowd spilled over. Within minutes of Mukherji’s call, the rallyists occupied the crossing of Chowringhee and Lenin Sarani and the gathering spread to all roads fanning out from the intersection.
The crowd that occupied Chowringhee Road stretched beyond Dorina Crossing as thousands of DYFI-SFI activists took over the thoroughfare right up to the Park Street crossing.
“What can we do? We need space to accommodate so many people. We had to come to the main road,” Mukherji told journalists.
A senior police officer said: “We did not estimate that such a huge crowd would turn up for the meeting and all our plans went haywire when rallyists surprised us by moving out of the designated slot. All we could do was to request the leaders to release one flank. But that plea was turned down.”
The turnout was so huge that even some of the organisers were surprised. Speaking to this correspondent, some of the leaders said the crowd was proof of the fact that the CPM was regaining ground at the grassroots.
“How else do you explain this crowd? I believe the anti-Mamata vote that had shifted to the BJP in 2019 and 2012 is coming back and this crowd is its result. It is a happy sight for us ahead of the polls,” a former CPM minister said.
Shortly after the crowd blocked the road, multiple senior police officers, including joint police commissioner, crime, Muralidhar Sharma, reached the venue.