February 9, 2017 5:25:12 am
Leader of the Opposition in the state, Abdul Mannan, was injured in a scuffle between Opposition MLAs and security guards in the state Assembly on Wednesday. The incident occurred during a discussion on West Bengal Maintenance of Public Order (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which was proposed by the state government to make vandals pay for any damage to public and private property.
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The Congress and Left Front were opposed to the Bill, saying it was draconian in nature, and was aimed at curbing protests by the Opposition.
The scuffle broke out after Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee suspended Mannan for two days after he refused to put away a placard he was wearing as an apron, and asked him to leave the House. The placard displayed photographs of TMC MLAs and leaders involved in ransacking the Assembly in December 2006, which the Speaker said was improper.
When Mannan refused to comply, marshalls were called in to forcibly remove him from the House. Following this, a scuffle broke out between Opposition MLAs and marshalls, leaving Mannan injured. He was immediately rushed to G D Hospital in Lenin Sarani, where he is undergoing treatment in the ICU unit. The ruckus took place after Opposition called for more amendments in the Bill.
“Mannan’s condition is stable but he is still in the ICU,” senior state Congress leader Amitabha Chakraborty said.
Later, Trinamool MLAs Shashi Panja and Manas Bhunia visited Mannan at the hospital.
After the incident, both Congress and Left Front MLAs staged a walkout and organised protests outside the House. The entire incident occurred when the Trinamool supremo was in her chamber in the Assembly.
The state government recently decided to amend the West Bengal Maintenance of Public Order Act, 1972, following frequent attacks on police vehicles and government property, and wanted those accused to compensate for the damage they inflicted. However, Opposition MLAs including Mannan wanted the new Bill to have a retrospective effect, so TMC MLAs would have to pay for damaging Assembly property in 2006.
“The government intends to amend the 1972 draconian law, which Left Front government had not made use of in its 34-year rule. After introducing certain sections in West Bengal Maintenance of Public Order (Amendment) Bill, 2017, government has introduced a black law which is medieval. We have questioned whether it is legally tenable to introduce such sections. But the government tried to stifle the voice of the Opposition by suspending Leader of the Opposition, and forcefully removing him from the House,” said Left leader Sujan Chakraborty.
State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, while speaking to The Indian Express, said he would apprise President Pranab Mukherjee and Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi about the incident.
“Today is a black day in the history of West Bengal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has turned state Legislative Assembly into a local club where Opposition MLAs are prevented from expressing their views. It is the right of Opposition parties to protest any anti-people bill inside and outside Assembly. It is shameful the way Mannan was heckled. Our leaders and workers will organise protest movements from tomorrow,” he said.
Criticising Mannan for disobeying the Speaker’s instruction, state Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee said: “Mannan da is a veteran politician. He should not have disobeyed the Speaker. Instead of leaving the House, he instigated other Opposition MLAs to join him. We condemn the indecent and unruly behaviour of Opposition MLAs.”
“The existing law of 1972 had provisions to penalise those who damaged public property. However, the new Bill is aimed at penalising those who damage private property as well,” Chatterjee added.
State Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee, on the other hand, said Opposition MLAs should have read the Bill before protesting against it. Meanwhile, doctors at G D Hospital were contemplating placing a temporary pacemaker to relieve Mannan from the present condition.
“He has external injuries on his leg, and his blood pressure has gone up. He had partial blockage in his heart, but after today’s incident, there are symptoms of full heart blockage. We are contemplating placing a temporary pacemaker to relieve him from his present condition,” said one of the doctors at the hospital. The Congress has decided to organise a sit-in-demonstration outside the Assembly on February 10 to protest against the incident. Women MLAs in the Opposition claimed they were “man-handled” by the marshalls. “The security (officials) pulled me by my saree and tried to kick me,” said Congress MLA Pratima Rajak.
The CPM too will take out a rally on Thursday to protest the heckling Mannan faced. Meanwhile, microphones were damaged during the scuffle, for which Opposition MLAs will be charged, Trinamool MLAs said. Marshall Debabrata Mukherjee said more than 10 security guards were injured in the scuffle.
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