A video turns political heat on Mamata’s TMC government
Some local people alleged that they saw a civic police volunteer vandalizing the cars. Congress legislator from Sujapur, Isha Khan Chowdhury, called the media and showed the video shortly after the arson.Updated: Jan 09, 2020, 01:32 IST
Even as life in large parts of Bengal was disrupted by the general strike, the burning of eight vehicles at Sujapur in Malda district turned all opposition parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC).
Police fired rubber bullets and lobbed tear gas shells to disperse the mob. The arson turned into a key political issue after a video, showing a man vandalizing some private vehicles at the same spot, where eight vehicles, including an SUV owned by the district police, was later set on fire.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Congress leaders alleged that the man in the video – which went viral in no time – was a policeman and said the arson was staged by the government to corner the opposition.
Some local people also alleged that they saw a civic police volunteer vandalizing the cars. Congress legislator from Sujapur, Isha Khan Chowdhury, called the media and showed the video shortly after the arson.
“No Congress activist damaged the vehicles, police personnel committed the crime and blamed us,” said Khan Chowdhury.
Malda superintendent of police, Alok Rajoria said, “We are studying the video. Action will be taken if any police personnel are found to be involved.”
“The government will not tolerate any violence. Police will take action and charges will be pressed for the destruction of public property. The Left did nothing for Bengal in 34 years and are now spreading violence for free publicity,” said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, blaming the left for the violence.
She had announced earlier that she supported the cause but was opposed to the general strike commonly referred to as bandh.
“Banerjee’s overenthusiastic police damaged cars and attacked people in Sujapur. TMC workers instigated the violence,” CPI (M) politburo member Md Salim said in his counter-attack, while claiming Banerjee was on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) side.
“All trade unions in the country, except the one affiliated to the Rashtriya Shyamsevak Sangh (RSS), supported the bandh and in Bengal, all parties except the TMC opposed the bandh. People can see who stands where,” said Salim.
The Congress, too, supported the theory of cops having a hand in the arson.
“By saying that she (Mamata) is opposed to the bandh she sent a message to the police,” said leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
“The violence at Sujapur was staged by TMC workers, just like the violence at Jawaharlal Nehru University,” said BJP Bengal unit general secretary Sayantan Basu.
Banerjee’s stand on prosecuting people for damaging public property also drew flak because she took quite a different stand when people set railway stations and trains on fire last month during protests against the amended citizenship law.
“The chief minister makes a statement in the morning and says something entirely different in the evening. She spared those who burnt railway property and is now talking of penalising vandals today because whatever destruction was done on Wednesday was perpetrated by dissidents in her own party. She wants to teach them a lesson,” added Basu.
Meanwhile, several dozen Muslim women were planning to spend the second straight night at the Park Circus area, where they launched their indefinite sit-in demonstration against NRC on Tuesday afternoon. They were joined on Wednesday by scores of people, mostly women, who expressed their solidarity with the demonstrators.