A motley group of political leaders and an intellectual who campaigned prominently for the Trinamool Congress were roughed up on Thursday by Bidhannagar Police while they were on their way to submit a deputation seeking the arrest of all 12 people named by rebel MP Kunal Ghosh in the Saradha scam.
Octogenarian educationist Sunanda Sanyal, who had campaigned vigorously for Mamata Banerjee in the 2011 polls, found himself at the receiving end of police wrath, along with Sujan Chakraborty, CPI(M) secretary for the South 24-Parganas, Party for Democratic Socialism leader Samir Putatunda and former firebrand Naxalite leader Ashim Chatterjee.
Both Putatunda and Chatterjee were former allies of the Trinamool.
The police arrested 24 people on Thursday, but released them all on bail after a few hours.
Around 3pm, scores of people cutting across political lines marched to the Bidhannagar Commissionerate, where a 10-member delegation was supposed to submit the deputation.
Congress MLA Sukhbilas Barma was also among them, although he was not arrested.
All the opposition parties unanimously condemned the attitude of police and the way they had manhandled the leaders, especially the elderly Sanyal.
“The names of many ministers and MPs have come up in the Saradha scam. The chief minister is afraid of a CBI probe since she fears the truth will be revealed. Kunal Ghosh has already been interrogated 9-10 times. But where is the probe heading? Why have the 12 people named by him not been interrogated?” Sanyal wondered.
“The government is being run by looting and, if people protest, they are treated in a barbaric manner. Why is the chief minister afraid of a CBI probe? It was the police who started the trouble today. They were even informed of the programme beforehand,” Chakraborty said, before the police whisked him away.
The cops, however, denied that they had been informed in advance about the programme.
Bidhannagar DC (HQ) Subrata Banerjee said the arrests were made on charges of illegal assembly, destruction of government property, trying to enter the police commissionerate by force and shoving policemen on duty.
Thursday’s programme was conducted under the banner of the Chit Fund Sufferers’ Unity Forum.
The leaders of the agitation claimed that a number of chit fund victims and agents were part of the crowd.
The depositors, including some who had invested in Saradha, were demanding refunds.
“Nowhere in the world have people been arrested for merely trying to submit a deputation. Even if the police weren’t informed of the programme beforehand, they could have simply accepted it and let them go,” BJP state president Rahul Sinha said.
“The chief minister is cracking down on ordinary people in the same way the CPI(M) used to do. But investors have a right to demand the return of their money, especially when Trinamool leaders were complicit in the Saradha scam,” Congress leader Amitava Chakraborty said.
The Trinamool, however, refuted charges of a political motive behind the crackdown and subsequent arrests of Chakraborty and Sanyal.
“If you push policemen and don’t inform them before conducting a programme, the police will act accordingly,” Trinamool MLA Sujit Bose said.
The CPI(M) will gherao all police stations on Friday to protest against Chakraborty’s arrest and also hold a protest meet at Rani Rashmoni Avenue. Congress leaders have also planned an agitation.