Indian Secular Front (ISF) activists fought a pitched battle with the police at Esplanade area in central Kolkata on Saturday during a protest against alleged attacks on their workers by the ruling Trinamul Congress in South 24 Parganas district.
The demonstration threw the traffic out of gear around the key Jawarharlal Nehru Road crossing. The sole ISF MLA Naushad Siddique, who was leading the protest, was detained along with 16 others, as a number of police personnel and agitators were injured.
A senior police official said the activists blocked an arterial road in the heart of the city, prompting the cops to request them to clear Jawaharlal Nehru Road and allow traffic movement.
However, the workers of the party, which was formed before the 2021 assembly election, refused to vacate the road demanding that the perpetrators behind the attacks on its activists at Bhangar be arrested first.
As police baton-charged the workers and lobbed tear gas shells, the demonstrators numbering around 500 retreated but pelted the cops with stones from nearby lanes, injuring several police personnel.
The clashes with the police, while they were trying to disperse the crowd of protesters, started at 4.45 pm and went on till about 5.30pm. It was only after that the police were able to restore some sort of order.
Injured ISF members during a clash with the police following their rally, in Calcutta. PTI
The protestors also damaged kiosks and guardrails of the police injuring several policemen, the official said.
A strong police contingent, comprising RAF and armed policemen, was deployed in the area. After about an hour, the police managed to clear the road and chased away the protestors but stray incidents of stone pelting continued for some time.
Commuters, who were hiding in shops with their shutters down came out raising their hands.
Siddiqui deplores police inaction
Injured ISF members during a clash with the police following their rally in Calcutta. PTI
Siddique, before his detention, deplored police “inaction” at Bhangar and the “high-handedness” of the force in Esplanade by turning on "peaceful protestors".
As many as 19 police personnel, including DC (South) Akash Magharia and DC (Central) Rupesh Kumar, were injured because of the incessant brick batting and volleys of missiles that were hurled at them.
All injured police personnel were taken to Calcutta Medical College for treatment.
Commissioner Vineet Goyal and Joint Commissioner (Crime) Vineet Goyal rushed to the spot and also visited the injured in hospital.
Violence in Bhangar
A lady with her child walks as dootwears lie on the road after clashes between ISF members and the police following their rally. PTI
The clashes in Calcutta took place in the wake of the political violence which have rocked Bhangar for the last 24 hours.
Three Trinamul Congress party offices in the Haatishala More and several vehicles were ransacked and set on fire allegedly in presence of Siddiqui by ISF workers since last night
Following those incidents, ISF and TMC workers clashed repeatedly in various parts of Bhangar all through the day where crude bombs were liberally hurled by both sides at each other... ISF workers heading for Esplanade were also allegedly targetted with stones and sticks.
ISF members during a clash with the police following their rally. PTI
Siddiqui alleged that his car was vandalised and one of his supporters sustained an eye injury from a brick hurled by the TMC.
TMC leaders Arabul Islam and Kaiser Ahmed lead the TMC agitation in Bhangar during the day.
Large police deployment has been made at Bhangar to prevent the underlying tension from spiralling out of control
Only Opp MLA
Footwears lie on a road after clashes between ISF members and the police following their rally. PTI
ISF is the only Opposition party other than BJP to have won a seat in the 2021 West Bengal assembly election. Its allies, the CPI(M)-led Left Front and the Congress failed to bag any seat.
The party was formed by Abbas Siddiqui, an influential Muslim cleric of Furfura Sharif in Hooghly district, in February of that year.