Most markets were open in West Bengal's Singur town on Saturday as the shutdown called by the ruling CPI-M to protest the arrest of its leader in the rape and murder of an anti-land acquisition protestor last year met with lukewarm response.
While the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) went on the offensive with a 12-hour shutdown call, a jubilant Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee geared up for an evening rally in the area to demand capital punishment for the alleged killers of 18-year-old Tapasi Malik whose charred body was recovered Dec 18 from an area fenced off for the upcoming Tata Motors plant.
Surprisingly, the shutdown, that comes two days after CPI-M's Singur Zonal Committee secretary Surhit Dutta's arrest, failed to evoke any response in the marketplaces of Singur, about 40 km from Kolkata in Hooghly district. The area has been on the boil since May last year over acquisition of land for the Tata Motors project.
"There has been no untoward incident since morning in the area," Hooghly Additional Superintendent of Police Asit Pal told IANS on phone while reports from the area said most shops and markets were open, rare in a shutdown called by a ruling party as powerful as the CPI-M.
While Dutta was arrested on Thursday evening by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), main accused CPI-M worker Debu Malik, who was in charge of the night guards at the Tata Motors site, was arrested in New Delhi and brought to Kolkata Wednesday night.
The arrests have come as a huge embarrassment to the CPI-M, which has labelled the entire episode a "conspiracy".
CPI-M patriarch Jyoti Basu refused to comment on the "sub judice" matter. But asked if he would call it a political conspiracy, he said: "Our party men think so."
The shutdown contradicts a statement by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya that "law would take its own course in the case and the guilty would be punished irrespective of party affiliation".
Dutta and Malik were remanded to CBI custody by the Chandannagore court of Hooghly district on Friday for their alleged role in the killing of Tapasi Malik, who along with her family was at the forefront of the anti-land acquisition movement in Singur.
While Dutta would be produced in court again on July 12, Debu Malik was given CBI custody till July 7.
Besides the Trinamool Congress, Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters have also demanded capital punishment for the two men.
Mamata Banerjee, who visited Tapasi's parents, said: "I would not comment on the CBI probe at this juncture but we all want punishment of the culprits. An innocent girl had to pay with her life for protesting land acquisition."
Some 997 acres in Singur have been chosen by Tata Motors for its small car project. The issue has triggered a violent face-off between the government and farmers led by civil society groups and parties like the Trinamool.