JUST AFTER noon, as the police personnel deployed at the iconic Howrah Bridge started donning riots gear to face the BJP protesters planning to march to the state secretariat, they knew it would be a long day.
Police personnel under the command of Additional Commissioners of Police Supratim Sarkar and Damayanti Sen set up three layers of barricades to stop protesters from marching ahead. There was a small barricade at the crossing of Brabourne Road and Strand Road, followed by two strong barricades. Next in line was a human wall comprising personnel of RAF and other forces. Behind them stood the water cannons and teargas shell squad,
A senior officer of Kolkata Police said, “We will not take action first, but if they will try to break the barricade, then we will have to take action.”
Around 1.20 pm, as thousands of BJP protesters, led by the party’s state unit chief Dilip Ghosh, headed towards the bridge, the police started announcing, “The protest should end here. Don’t take law in your hands.”
However, as protesters breached the first barricade and rushed towards the second, a strong jet of water hit them. BJP workers then started pelting stones at the police. After 15 minutes of altercation, the mob managed to break the second barricade. Soon, the RAF personnel resorted to lathicharge. After half an hour, the BJP cadre retreated and reached near their party office.
According to BJP leaders, at least 20 of their supporters were injured in the lathicharge at Howrah Bridge.
However, the protest brought the traffic to a standstill in Kolkata, Howrah and North 24 Paragana as both the bridges over the Hooghly were closed. Sources in Howrah traffic department said that the Howrah bridge was closed to traffic from 10:30 am to 3 pm, giving a tough time to people travelling to and from Kolkata.
“I was travelling from Howrah to Salt Lake and started off at 9:30 pm, I waited till 12 pm — almost three hours in a hired taxi — but Howrah Bridge remained shut. Finally, I returned home. I had an urgent official work which I had to cancel,” said Priyam Jain, a resident of Liluah.
The second Hooghly Bridge was kept shut the entire afternoon. So, traffic on Kona Expressway was blocked. “I was going to meet my mother who is infected with Covid and is admitted in a central Kolkata hospital. But I couldn’t due to this rally and last-minute traffic diversion. Common men are the real sufferers,” said Dharnidhar Pradhan, a Howrah Maidan resident.
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