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BJP calls off Bengal bandh early after violence, Mamata Banerjee calls it a ‘flop’

The BJP had called the bandh to protest the death of two youths in alleged police firing in Islampur on September 20.

india Updated: Sep 26, 2018 20:15 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Mamata Banerjee,Bengal bandh,Bengal
BJP supporters take out a rally in support of the Bengal bandh at Shyambazar in North Kolkata, India on September 26(Shubra Ray/HT Photo)

The BJP called off its bandh in West Bengal almost two hours before schedule following sporadic violence in several parts of the state, prompting chief minister Mamata Banerjee to term it “unsuccessful”.

BJP’s Bengal unit chief Dilip Ghosh withdrew the shutdown, called to protest the death of two youths in alleged police firing in Islampur on September 20, at 4:15 pm, ahead of the 6 pm schedule announced earlier.

Protesters had set buses on fire, blocked highways and roads, and clashed with police and ruling Trinamool Congress supporters as the bandh saw partial response in most parts of the state.

“We have made our point. BJP does not support bandhs in principle, but we were forced to call the shutdown to protest in extraordinary circumstances,” said Ghosh, who claimed that Mamata Banerjee had called 73 bandhs as opposition leader.

In Kolkata, markets and shops opened for business. Traffic, however, was thinner compared to that on working days. Stone-pelting incidents were reported in Shyambazar and Sealdah areas.

Describing the bandh as “unsuccessful”, Mamata Banerjee claimed the people rejected BJP’s call for a shutdown in the state.

“In some offices, presence has been more than that on normal days. Educational institutions are also functioning normally. The bandh supporters have vandalised buses. But we are grateful to the people of the state for continuing the pace of normal life,” she told TV channels from Milan in Italy, where she has gone on an official tour.

She also instructed the police to hold the protesters accountable for vandalism of government and private property.

Ghosh distanced his party from the violence and accused the ruling party supporters of setting buses on fire.

ADG, law and order, Anuj Sharma said 1,600 people were arrested under preventive sections while 50 were arrested under specific charges. “Three buses were set on fire. West Bengal Maintenance of Public Order Act is being slapped against some so that compensation for damages can be recovered from them. Police were attacked in Islampur and Jhargram,” he said.

Rakesh Nandi, a 13-year-old boy, was rushed to a hospital in Murshidabad district after he sustained injuries when a part of a tear gas shell hit him in the back.

”The boy has sustained bullet injury in police firing. It was not from a tear gas shell,” alleged BJP district president Gouri Shankar Ghosh.

However, the boy’s father Nityananda Nandi said he was not sure whether it was a bullet injury.

Police had fired tear gas shells in a clash after bandh supporters tried to coax shop owners to down their shutters in Satui market of Shaktipur in the district.

Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly, who led a procession in Kolkata, alleged that police shot the two youths in Islampur and then tried to cover up the incident in a hurried post mortem examination.

Clashes broke out between TMC and BJP supporters in West Midnapore, West Burdwan, South Dinajpur and North Dinajpur districts.

In Mahishadal (East Midnapore district) and Taki (North 24 Parganas), BJP and Trinamool workers clashed. In Islampur, where the alleged police firing took place, bandh supporters vandalised buses, set them on fire and placed burning tyres on the roads to block traffic and fought with the police.

“Early morning train services of Eastern Railway’s Howrah and Sealdah divisions were partially affected as the bandh supporters either obstructed train movements or threw banana leaves on the overhead wires in different stations over various sections,” a statement by Eastern Railway said. However, normal services resumed in phases latest by 11 am.

The bandh was supported by all Sangh Parivar outfits, including Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangha (RSS).

First Published: Sep 26, 2018 20:15 IST