CPM infighting plays out at a city mall

Police lathicharged members of CITU-backed autorickshaw drivers at Salt Lake’s City Centre Mall on Sunday after rivalry between two factions of the local CPM turned ugly.

Written by Express News Service | Kolkata | Published:March 2, 2009 4:28 am

Police resort to lathicharge,12 arrested

Police lathicharged members of CITU-backed autorickshaw drivers at Salt Lake’s City Centre Mall on Sunday after rivalry between two factions of the local CPM turned ugly.

The auto drivers created a ruckus threatening shoppers not to park their cars near the mall. They also damaged several billboards. Police arrested 12 people and seized two autorickshaws.

On Saturday night,trouble began when a group of CPM supporters involved with outdoor advertising agencies allegedly damaged and set a CITU office on fire.

They alleged that the CITU-supporting auto drivers prevented them from putting up hoardings just behind the stand. “We just wanted to install a pole at the place. The auto drivers stopped us from installing it and started beating up. They also demanded money. We refused to pay them since we already pay the civic body for putting up the hoardings,” said one CPM supporter associated with a private hoarding agency.

The auto drivers union,on the other hand,protested that the billboards were obstructing the CITU office located just beside City Centre. “We did not prevent them from setting up any hoarding. It was they who arrived and started beating up our people. They then set the CITU office on fire,” alleged auto drivers.

On Sunday morning,a group of auto drivers pulled down some hoardings near City Centre. The situation turned worse when they started blocking cars near the mall and threatened shoppers of smashing their cars if they parked their vehicles near the mall. This went on for about an hour and a half.

Finally around 4 pm,Bidhannagar SDPO Subhankar Bhattacharya arrived at the spot with a huge police force in tow. The police resorted to lathicharge to bring the situation under control and immediately arrested 12 of them. Both groups,however,denied their roles in the incident. “The auto drivers are making baseless allegations. They damaged the CITU office and are trying to blame us for it,” said Niloy Ghosh,a member of CPM’s Salt Lake local committee,who is also an owner of Tradeline Service,an advertising agency.

Police said that they have initiated a case against both the groups for creating a nuisance. “We are probing the matter,” said Bhattacharya.

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