Many injured as police crack down on belligerent Left workers in West Bengal

 22 May 2017 - 18:49


Kolkata: A number of police personnel and Left protesters were injured on Monday as security forces used tear gas and carried out baton charges on thousands of belligerent activists who broke barricades here and neighbouring Howrah during a protest march to the secretariat.

In New Delhi, Left Front spearhead, the Communist Party of India-Marxist's General Secretary Sitaram Yechury claimed around 250 Left supporters sustained injuries during the "March to Nabanna (state secretariat)" organised by 11 Left peasant bodies to press for their 18-point charter of demand including measures to stop farmers' distress and rising unemployment.

The injured included former state minister and CPI-M leader Kanti Biswas and Revolutionary Socialist Party veteran Subhas Naskar. CPI-M politburo member Mohammed Salim also sustained a leg injury.

"Even Surjya da (CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra) was hit with a stick when we were holding a sit-in in protest against police atrocities earlier in the day," said Naskar, also a former minister.

Salim, and ex CPI-M MPs Shamik Lahiri and Ramchandra Dom were among the Left leaders arrested and taken to the lock-up, said Mishra, who described the protests as "successful" and claimed over two lakh people participated in the march organised with the slogan "Bangla biponno, tai cholo Nabanna (Bengal is in crisis, so March to Nabanna)".

LF chairman Biman Bose announced that a statewide condemnation Day would be observed on Tuesday.

Several areas in Kolkata and Howrah district turned into battlefields as the Left activists used sticks and bamboo poles to break guard walls and barricades and rained bricks and stones on police and the Rapid Action Force deployed in strength to quell the protest.

While Nabanna was virtually converted into a fortress with all entry points blocked and barricaded, and gates closed, sand bunkers and barricades were put up in the approach roads, many of which were closed to traffic.

However, there was high drama even before the scheduled start of the march, as a number of Left Front lawmakers including its legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty reached Nabanna around noon and shouted slogans at its gate, demanding they be allowed in.

"Twenty of our MLAs reached the gate of Nabanna to protest against the issues of unemployment, farmers' distress and other issues. But police forcibly stopped us and later put us in police vans," Chakraborty told IANS.

"The Chief Minister has fled from the city. Is she not bothered about the plight of the farmers here? She has turned the state into a prison," he added. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is in Birbhum district to attend an administrative meeting.

At 1 p.m., the Left workers from the city as also near and far flung districts gathered at five points here and in Howrah and tried to march to the secretariat, but came up against stiff resistance from the heavily-armed police.

Stopped, the agitators sat on the road and demonstrated and then broke the barriers at Mayo Road, Shibpur and other points to continue the march. Some of them were seen battling police and countering batons with bricks.

Police, using water canons and and lobbing tear gas shells, managed to temporarily disperse the Left workers, but they soon regrouped and confronted police again, shouting "Inquilab Zindabad" and holding aloft the red flags.

Some of them even snatched the sticks from baton charging police personnel, and again dismantled barricades.

The areas, particularly Mayo Road, resembled war zones, with both protestors and the police sustaining bloody injuries.

The entire Left leadership hit the roads to take part in the march.

The government ridiculed the LF march.

"The CPI-M is in crisis. So they tried to march to Nabanna. They are not there in public discourse. They don't work for the people. So they are trying to save their existence," said state Education Minister and Trinamool Secretary General Partha Chatterjee.

Trinamool MP and Mamata Banerjee's nephew Avishek Banerjee said: "The administration will take suitable action against those who want to disrupt Bengal's law and order by hurling stones at police. The Chief Minister has given the requisite orders. We won't allow them who are hitting the streets to disrupt peace in our state."