The 12-hour shutdown by the BJP in West Bengal on Wednesday was called off two hours in advance after the party termed it to be a “complete success”, even as sporadic incidents of violence were reported from across the state. The bandh was observed to protest against the recent killing of two students during a demonstration for the appointment of school teachers in Islampur area in North Dinajpur district.
“As the bandh has been successful, we have decided to call it off two hours ahead of the scheduled time,” BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said. He added, “The reports that we have received from the districts prove that the shutdown was a success. People have willingly participated and supported it as it was called for genuine reasons.”
Here is a summary of what happened during the day:
Govt notification to employees
Not taking the bandh call seriously, the Bengal government had issued a notification, asking its employees to attend office today. There will be no holiday on the day before or after the bandh, the notification said. Even a half day will not be sanctioned, it added.
Clashes between TMC and BJP workers
Several incidents of violence were reported from across West Midnapore, West Burdwan and North and South Dinajpur as BJP and Trinamool Congress (TMC) supporters clashed with each other and set ablaze three state-run buses, besides pelting stones at vehicles in Islampur.
Education Minister and TMC General Secretary Partha Chatterjee, however, claimed the situation was “completely under control” and normal life was “not at all affected”. “The BJP has been trying to foment trouble in some areas and instil a sense of fear among the people. But the situation is completely under control and normal life has not at all been affected. We are monitoring the situation,” he said.
As many as 2,000 BJP activists were arrested, with the party demanding their immediate and unconditional release.
Railway services affected
BJP workers staged demonstrations at Chengail, Andul and Ramrajatala stations in the Howrah-Kharagpur section of the South Eastern Railway, bringing suburban train services to a halt, SER Central Public Relations Officer Sanjoy Ghosh said.
Bus set ablaze near Howrah Station
A number of state-run buses, including one in Kolkata, were vandalised and torched allegedly by the bandh supporters across Bengal. Despite the deployment of a huge police contingent to monitor law and order, passengers onboard a bus along C7 route at Howrah station were forced to vacate and disperse after two men threatened them and set the bus on fire. A search is on to nab the miscreants.
Denying the saffron’s party role in the incident, Ghosh said, “TMC is making all efforts and is indulging in violence to tarnish the image of the BJP.”
Calcutta High Court directs state govt to ensure normalcy
In the wake of the 12-hour bandh, the Calcutta High Court directed the West Bengal government to ensure that normal life was not affected and said action must be taken against people indulging in violence. The high court directed the state DGP, IG and district magistrates to ensure that the general public are not intimidated by the bandh organisers, and that there is no blockade of rail and road traffic.
BJP behind the murder of two students: Mamata Banerjee
Alleging that the BJP was behind the killing of the two students in Dinajpur, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the saffron party was now trying to derive political mileage out of the issue by calling a bandh. Terming the shutdown as a “complete failure”, Banerjee, who is currently in Italy’s Milan for an official tour, said, “They themselves (BJP) have killed two students and now are trying to derive political benefits from it. Why are they mum on farmers’ suicides in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan? Why are they mum on the encounter killings in Uttar Pradesh?”
“If you are in politics then you have some responsibility towards the society. Being in politics doesn’t mean that you can go scott free by unleashing violence,” she added.
The CM directed the police to act as per the law passed by the state Assembly which empowers the administration to seek compensation from political parties for losses and damages during political agitation or shutdown.
“Who will pay for the buses that were torched today? We will ask the police to act as per the law passed by the assembly where we will seek compensation from those who are responsible for this violence,” she said.
BJP hits back
Accusing the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) of fomenting trouble and pinning the blame on BJP workers, Dilip Ghosh said, “The TMC-backed hooligans resorted to violence in most places so as to put the blame on us. We had not asked anybody to enforce the shutdown. The violence and vandalism are neither sponsored nor supported by the BJP.”
Taking a swipe at CM Banerjee who termed the shutdown as a hindrance to productive work, Ghosh claimed that Banerjee herself had created a record in calling strikes and shutdowns in the state earlier. “She had called for 73 shutdowns in Bengal — a record in itself. No one, not even the CPI-M, can come close to that figure. Also, she had called for a 36-hour shutdown once. Now, she has completely changed her stance and started opposing it,” he said.
The party also accused Transport Minister and Trinamool leader Subhendu Adhikari of triggering unrest in Islampur by holding a rally in the area. “The situation in Islampur became tense because of the Minister’s rally. He rallied anti-social elements. Members of terrorist organisations were seen in the area. People have expressed their anger against this government,” the BJP leader said.