Sporadic violence during BJP's Bengal shutdown(Roundup)

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Kolkata : West Bengal on Wednesday witnessed sporadic violence and vandalism in some districts and disruption in train services during the BJP-sponsored 12-hour shutdown in the state.

Normal life remained largely unaffected in the capital city and the suburbs.

The shutdown's impact was mostly felt in parts of North Dinajpur district where two youths were killed during a clash last week between agitating students and police over teachers' recruitment in a state-run school.

The locals had claimed the youths died in police firing, but the latter denied it.

The Bharatiya Janata Party had called the shutdown against the killings and demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The party called off the bandh two hours before it was due to end at 6p.m.

BJP supporters put up road blockades of tree trunks and burning tyres in the Islampur area in the district. Two state-run buses were vandalised and set on fire.

Women and youths, armed with bamboo sticks and iron rods, were seen obstructing the road traffic.

As the day progressed, clashes between ruling Trinamool Congress and BJP supporters were reported from various places, including Cooch Behar, South 24 Parganas and Nadia districts. The police resorted to baton charge and used teargas to disperse the mob.

A large group of shutdown supporters clashed with the police in Malda's Englishbazar area when the lawkeepers tried to remove a blockade. The mob threw stones at police vehicles and chased away the cops with wooden sticks.

Train services were substantially disrupted in both Sealdah and Howrah divisions of the Eastern Railway.

Forty-two pairs of suburban trains were cancelled under the Eastern Railway while the South Eastern Railway withdrew 18 more trains as agitators squatted on the tracks.

An unspecified number of state-run buses were vandalised in Howrah and Cooch Behar districts.

"As many as 1,600 people have been arrested under preventive sections. Another 50 people have been arrested under specific cases. The process of registering more complaints is going on," said West Bengal Police Additional Director General (law and order) Anuj Sharma at the state secretariat Nabanna.

"Three buses have been torched. Two of them were in Islampur and one in Jhargram. We are registering cases under the West Bengal maintainence of public order amendment Act,2017 against the offenders which would hold them liable to pay compensation to the state for damage to property," he added.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the BJP of creating disturbances, torturing people in the name of shutdown and claimed that people had rejected the shutdown.

"It (BJP) is a shameless party. The way its leaders are speaking... they brought hooligans from outside and killed two of my students... can this be the activity of a political party? Bengal people have now totally turned against the culture of shutdown," said Banerjee, who is in Italy's Milan to attract foreign investments to the state, in a statement.

She said attendance in the government offices was 95 per cent during the day, which is above the daily average.

In Kolkata, people hit the streets in the morning and many public and private buses, taxis, autos were seen plying normally. However, many shops remained closed.

A state bus was vandalised and set on fire in central Kolkata's Brabourne Road in the afternoon.

The BJP leadership took out a rally in central Kolkata, where party's state President Dilip Ghosh, state women's wing President Locket Chatterjee and senior leader Rahul Sinha took part.

"We demand to know from the Chief Minister as to why innocent youths were killed by her police. We want to know why no action has been taken against the offenders," Ghosh said while blaming the Trinamool Congress activists for the violence.

He claimed over 2,000 party activists across the state were arrested by the police and demanded their immediate and unconditional release.

Another party leader Roopa Ganguly claimed the shutdown call had received spontaneous backing from the common people across the state.

"While buses are available, most of them are running empty... none of the buses remains empty during office hours on a normal day. This shows people are spontaneously supporting the shutdown," Ganguly said.

The state government had earlier issued a circular that its offices would remain open on Wednesday and no leave would be granted. It also urged banks and educational institutions to remain open.

Additional police personnel were deployed throughout the state to prevent violence.

Published : Wednesday, September 26, 2018 22:00 [IST]
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