On the eve of inauguration of Reliance Fresh, a retail outlet in the city, the showroom faced the fury of Forward Bloc activists on Saturday afternoon. The newly-built outlet at Girish Park was ransacked and its glass panes were smashed, while last-minute finishing touches were being given to the glitzy showroom.
This was the first attack on a Reliance showroom in the city, after Forward Bloc and Trinamool Congress had earlier gone on a rampage on two other Reliance units in Hooghly.
Forward Bloc state secretary Ashoke Ghosh claimed responsibility for the vandalism and said the party was proud to be involved in the act.
"Today's incident was due to the outbreak of people's anger against the capitalist approach of Reliance, which is all out to grab the small retail businessmen," said Ghosh.
In fact, a few days ago chairman of the state agri-marketing board Naren Chatterjee had threatened law and order problem in the state if Reliance were allowed entry.
Incidentally, the fresh spurt of attack was witnessed after news spread that the Left Front government was mulling to relax the ceiling limit for the six distribution centres of Reliance.
Reliance had proposed to set up six distribution centres all over the state, each measuring 100 acres of land. The food-processing department, which was given the charge of studying the proposal vis a vis relaxation of ceiling limit, has recently showed the green signal.
However, the decision had not gone down well with the Forward Bloc ministers in the Cabinet. Agricultural-marketing minister Mortaza Hossain, who belongs to Forward Bloc, made it clear at Writers' Buildings that since the distribution centres and retail outlets would deal with agri-products, he would have the last word in giving permission to agri-retail business. He also questioned if the food processing department had the authority to decide on agri-marketing business.
Things took such a turn that Left Front chairman Biman Bose had to say that nothing was final as yet.
Today at around 4 pm, around 90 Forward Bloc activists including small traders of the area reached Nanda Mullick Lane and tried to enter the market forcefully. The security men of the outlet closed the main entrance when the angry protesters suddenly started throwing stone at the newly built Reliance Fresh outlet. All the tinted window glasses were damaged.
"They were throwing stones, bricks and iron rods. We had to run away from the front portion of the building to save our lives," said an employee of the retail chain who was supervising the stocks inside the retail market. The activists even broke down the decorative lights in front of the main gate. The ransacking continued for 20 minutes.
The police came at around 4.30 pm after the activists left the area. The entire area was covered with broken glasses, stones and bricks.