12-hour strike by Congress halts life in West Bengal
Congress activists blocked roads, damaged buses and ransacked government offices as they enforced a dawn-to-dusk shutdown in West Bengal on Friday, protesting against a violent attack on party legislators earlier this week.india Updated: Jul 17, 2009 15:39 IST
Congress activists blocked roads, damaged buses and ransacked government offices as they enforced a dawn-to-dusk shutdown in West Bengal on Friday, protesting against a violent attack on party legislators earlier this week.
"We've received a report that the head post office in Siliguri was vandalised by some political activists on Friday morning. Another group of people, who were supporting the shutdown, also damaged the windscreens of a government bus in the same town," state Inspector General of Police (North Bengal) KL Tamta told IANS by telephone.
"At least four people have been arrested so far in connection with these two protests in Siliguri," he said.
According to officials, a long-distance bus was damaged by mobs at Baguihati near the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport here. Rapid Action Force personnel were deployed at the spot to bring the situation under control.
"The shutdown has been peaceful so far, except for a few small blockades and protests. We've not received any major report of violence from any part of the state," Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia said.
He said vehicular movement in the state was down to the minimum.
Train services were paralysed while some airlines rescheduled and cancelled flights as the 12-hour strike called by the state Congress took hold.
Many long-distance and local trains were halted midway by protesters. A number of local trains like Biswabharati Fast Passenger, Asansol-Haldia Express, Howrah-Purulia Express and Steel Express were stopped at different railway stations as Congress supporters squatted on railway tracks.
Shops, schools, factories and offices remained closed as the supporters of the strike waving party flags took to the streets.
Attendance in IT and outsourcing firms here was also affected, officials said.
"It doesn't always help to keep office open on shutdowns as it is difficult for people to come from distant places to work. No transport is available," Globsyn Technologies' CEO Bikram Dasgupta told IANS.
Asked about the impact of the strike on the IT sector, he said: "Not many people are coming. The fear factor, after what happened yesterday (Thursday), is on top of everyone's mind.
"At the end of the day strikes, irrespective of political parties, are frustrating."
Patton International Ltd managing director Sanjay Budhia said: "Strikes are never positive irrespective of whichever political party has called it. On Friday I was supposed to go to the US via Delhi. But I had to reschedule everything."
Hundreds of Congress activists had Thursday set fire to a bus on Howrah bridge, which links Kolkata with the busy Howrah railway station. They also obstructed all major road junctions across the state. Many trains were badly hit due to blockades on railway tracks.
The state Congress leadership Thursday said the 12-hour shutdown had been called in 12 of the 19 districts of West Bengal.
The strike was called after a group of Congress legislators in West Bengal were assaulted, allegedly by supporters of the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) in a village that has witnessed political clashes and killings after the April-May general elections in India.
A 14-member delegation led by Congress Legislative Party (CLP) chief Manas Bhuinya was attacked when they went to Dhanyarukhi village in Burdwan district Wednesday. They had gone to distribute relief material among party supporters whose houses were burnt after the June 16 murder of CPI-M district committee member Falguni Mukherjee.
Seven journalists accompanying the delegation were also injured.