Isolated incidents of violence were reported across the state but normal life was largely unaffected on the first day of the bandh called by Left-backed trade unions to protest against the Centre’s “anti-people policies”.
CPM leaders were showcaused by West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Right (WBCPCR) after protesters attempting to enforce the bandh pelted stones at a school bus packed with students in Champadali area of North 24 Parganas.
“The West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights has taken cognizance in the matter of an attack on a school bus in Barasat with school children on board by the members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) while they were trying to disrupt public life during a bandh. A showcause notice is being sent to Sri Sujan Chakrabarty and other office bearers of CPI(M). The Commission is aggrieved over such dangerous, unconstitutional move by a political party. It is a violation of child rights under the JJ Act. The Commission expresses its grave concern on this issue where even children are not being spared from violent demonstrations,” it said in a statement.
Police said hundreds of bandh supporters were arrested for blocking roads, railway and Metro lines, pelting stones and vandalising government vehicles.
Government offices, IT sector, port activities, tea gardens and transport services operated as per usual under heavy security cover. Some bank branches and ATMs were shut. Sources in the administration said 100 per cent attendance was recorded in the state secretariat.
Attempt to rejuvenate workers, gain momentum
In West Bengal, the CPM’s call for strike can be seen as an attempt to find its voice at a time when the Trinamool Congress and BJP have emerged as the two main forces for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. While the bandh has failed to elicit a response from the general public, a political observer said the party’s display of manpower on the streets may boost its image and rejuvenate its workers at the grassroots level ahead of its planned brigade rally in February.
Bandh supporters also burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and burnt tyres in various parts of the state including Kolkata. Their charter of demands includes minimum wage, universal social security, workers’ status and including pay and facilities for the scheme workers.
In Howrah, Siliguri, Burdwan, Birbhum, North and South 24 Parganas, clashes broke out between Trinamool Congress workers and bandh supporters.
Tyres were burnt in Central Avenue to stop buses from plying the roads. A government bus was damaged by bandh supporters at Champadali. Protesters also vandalised a bus at Jamuria in West Burdwan district.
Scuffles ensued between police and bandh supporters in some areas of the state.
In Jadavpur, senior CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty and several others were detained by police.
CITU state president Subhas Mukherjee claimed the first day of the strike was successful despite the government’s attempts to foil it.
“The role played by TMC is utterly shameful and it has been proved that BJP and TMC have a tacit understanding. People supported the bandh and it reflected in the day’s events. Buses were on the streets but there were no passengers. We will continue with our strike tomorrow as well,” said Mukherjee.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose condemned the use of force against CPM leaders and said a different strategy will be adopted by the party to make the strike more successful on Wednesday. “It is shameful the way the police used force on our workers,” he said.
The Trinamool Congress, on the other hand, said the strike was a complete failure.
“The strike has failed to evoke a response from people as they have completely rejected the culture of observing shutdowns. We are also fighting against BJP but are not in favour of shutdown or strike as a mode of protest,” said TMC secretary general and state Education Minister Partha Chatterjee.
BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said people did not respond to the CPM’s bandh call. “I have been to the city since morning but did not see any impact. Some CPM leaders are on the streets but people have rejected their call,” he said.