Sporadic violence during BJP-called Bengal shutdown

KOLKATA:

Sporadic incidents of violence and vandalism were reported from some West Bengal districts on Wednesday during the BJP sponsored 12-hour shutdown in the state.

Normal life though remained largely unaffected in the capital city and adjoining suburbs. 

Most of the impact of the shutdown was felt in parts of North Dinajpur district where two youths were allegedly killed during a clash last week between agitating students and the police over teacher recruitment at a state-run school.

Condemning the incident the Bharatiya Janata Party had called for Wednesday's shutdown and demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the matter.

The BJP supporters created road blockades in several areas in the district by felling tree trunks and burning tyres in the Islampur area. A number of state-run buses were vandalised and set on fire.

Women and youths, armed with bamboo sticks and iron rods, were seen obstructing the traffic on the roads.

Clashes between the ruling Trinamool Congress and BJP supporters took place in Cooch Behar and Nadia districts. The police resorted to baton charge and used tear gas shells to disperse the mob.

Train services were partially disrupted in both Sealdah and Howrah division of the Eastern Railway.

Titagarh, Aranghata (Ranaghat Gede section), Krishnanagar, Barasat, Pyradanga (Kalyani Ranaghat section) and Bhabla (Barasat Bangaon) routes in the Sealdah division were obstructed.

In the Howrah division, agitators obstructed train movement at Bansberia (Bandel Katwa section) and at Baidyabati (Howrah Bandel section).

A number of state-run buses were vandalised in Howrah and Cooch Behar districts.

In Kolkata, though, people hit the streets in the morning and many public and private buses, taxis, autos were seen plying normally on the roads. Most shops remained closed.

The state BJP leadership said people were spontaneously supporting the shutdown.

"While buses are available, most of them are running empty. I got into a number of buses since morning and requested the commuters to support our cause. 

"None of the buses remain this empty during office hours on a general day. This shows people are spontaneously supporting the shutdown," state BJP leader Roopa Ganguly said.

"We will not resort to any form of violence. We know Trinamool is always prepared to attack us. But we are holding the shutdown in a peaceful manner," she claimed.

State Minister and Trinamool Congress' Secretary General Partha Chatterjee had said that the government would take all measures to maintain public utility services.

State BJP President Dilip Ghosh has said there would be repercussions if the ruling Trinamool deploys hooligans or uses the administration to foil the movement.

The state government has issued a circular stating its offices would remain open on Wednesday and no leave would be granted. It also urged banks, educational institutions including schools and colleges to remain open.

Additional police personnel have been deployed throughout the state to prevent any disruption or violence in connection with the shutdown.