Kolkata braces for protests on March 1 over Amit Shah’s pro-CAA rally
The city is bracing for widespread protests on March 1, when Union home minister Amit Shah and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Jagat Prakash Nadda are scheduled to arrive in Kolkata to address a public rally and speak in favour of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
Left parties have called for protests on the streets and an ‘apolitical gathering’ has been planned to hold a gherao of the Bengal BJP headquarters. Besides, Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind has called for a protest march in the city to be led by Trinamool Congress (TMC) minister Siddiqullah Chowdhury. A separate protest gathering has been called by a group of social activists.
Most of these programmes are around Esplanade. The venue of Shah’s rally, too, is near Esplanade, the heart of Kolkata.
“Kolkata will welcome Shah just the way Narendra Modi was welcomed – with black flags. Shah has his hands soaked in blood in the Delhi clashes. He is not welcome in Bengal,” said Md Salim, Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member. “Mamata Banerjee may try her best to offer Shah a red carpet but people will take to the streets,” he added.
Social activist Wali Rahmani, who has called for a gherao of the Bengal BJP headquarters, said, “We will march from Maidan for the BJP office, carrying a packet of sweets, flower bouquet and a letter for Shah so that he stops delivering hate speeches and ensure his party men stopped doing the same.”
Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind state unit president and the library minister in the Mamata Banerjee cabinet, Siddiqullah Chowdhury, said that he will lead a peaceful march from Moulali area, condemning Shah’s inaction during the clashes in New Delhi and demanding his resignation. “Shah has earned our country a bad name in the world,” Chowdhury said.
Bengal Congress president Somen Mitra said they would decide on Saturday whether to join the Left on Sunday’s protest. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, has slammed chief minister Mamata Banerjee for attending a meeting of the Eastern Zonal Council chaired by Shah in Bhubaneswar on Friday. “TMC has exposed its secret understanding with the BJP,” Chowdhury said.
Besides, an umbrella organization called No-NRC Movement has also called for protests against Shah’s visit. NRC is the abbreviation of National Register of Citizens.
With so many events announced, the administration is expecting a situation similar to that in January when protesters brought the city to a standstill during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit. The police had not allowed protesters anywhere near Modi’s venues.
However, what worries the administration most is that Modi’s events were all indoors, while nearly one lakh BJP supporters are expected to gather at Shahid Minar ground to listen to Shah.
BJP state unit president Dilip Ghosh criticized the protest plans. “The Left and Congress, due to their destructive politics, are on the verge of extinction. They are resorting to the same brand of politics for a revival. People will reject them,” Ghosh said.
No police officer agreed to speak on record. “None of the protest programmes have been given permission. The police will remain alert and ensure that protesters do not come near the venue of BJP’s rally,” said a senior officer of Kolkata police who is involved the making the security arrangements for the day.
Senior TMC leaders refused to comment, saying the chief minister is monitoring the whole situation. “She is the home minister and only she will comment,” said a senior TMC minister who did not want to be identified.
TMC has no scheduled programme on Sunday. During Modi’s visit, though, TMC carried out a sit-in demonstration, even though Banerjee met Modi at the governor’s residence and described it as a ‘courtesy visit’.