Hundreds of Trinamool Congress workers on Monday gathered to protest the arrest of four party leaders, including two ministers, waved party flags and shouted slogans near the main gate of the CBI office in Kolkata’s Nizam Palace.
At around 1.15 pm, Trinamool workers tried to forcefully enter the palace campus, but were thwarted by the security personnel. In Covid times and an ongoing lockdown, social distancing was not the only casualty. The workers lobbed bricks, stones and water bottles at the jawans, and also ransacked the car of a media-person.
The incident played out when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was sitting in the CBI office for nearly six hours with her four arrested party colleagues: Transport and Housing Minister Firhad Hakim, Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee, MLA and former minister Madan Mitra and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay. She held a Cabinet meeting through telephonic conversation. The Cabinet approved a proposal to form the Bidhan Parishad. A Bill in this regard will be tabled in the Assembly in the next session.
Outside, the CBI campus was turned into a virtual fortress as a huge contingent of central forces with polycarbonate shields guarded the premises.
The high drama unfolded on Monday morning when CBI officers along with jawans of central forces raided residences of Mukherjee, Hakim, Mitra and Chatterjee. They were taken to the CBI office and kept in separate rooms on the 14th floor of one of the buildings in Nizam palace, which houses several offices of the Central government.
After this, a number of lawyers and TMC leaders made their way to Nizam Palace. At around 10.45 am, Chief Minister Banerjee, who was scheduled to visit the Nabanna state secretariat, drove to the CBI office.
“I have heard Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee say to CBI officers that without the Speaker’s and state government’s consent, such arrests cannot be made. She said: “You have to arrest me if you have arrested them,” said Anindya Rout, TMC leader and lawyer, who was present with Banerjee.
Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee, Civil Defence Minister Javed Ahmed Khan, MPs Santanu Sen, Mala Roy and Kalyan Banerjee, and MLAs Nayana Bandyopadhyay and Paresh Paul also visited the CBI office and met the chief minister.
As TMC leaders shuffled in and out of the palace, media persons chased them for comments. Kalyan Banerjee targeted Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and called the arrests illegal.
As hundreds of TMC workers tried to barge into the premises, leader pacified them and it was decided that Kolkata Police will man the gate. The first layer of security consisted of Kolkata Police personnel and the second by central forces.
However, protested continued to chant slogans near the main gate of Nizam Palace.
Abhijit Biswas, a resident of Belgharia and one of the protesters, said, “The BJP should accept the people’s mandate. The arrests are politically motivated. The BJP should instead concentrate on Covid-19 issues. Mamata Banerjee already defeated them in Bengal. In the future, she will uproot them from Delhi also.”
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