Police fire tear gas shells, use water cannons and wield lathis to control Left agitators in Kolkata
The streets of Kolkata leading to Howrah turned into virtual battlefields on Monday afternoon with police firing tear gas shells, targeting water cannons and wielding lathis during the ‘March to Secretariat’ agitation programme undertaken by 11 Left parties and organisations.
Chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, was out of the city. She went to Birbhum district to attend an administrative meeting. Clashes erupted between police and the agitators at various points in Kolkata and Howrah.
Police had to resort to massive lathi charge and firing of tear gas cells as the agitators broke through two consecutive barricades and guard-walls. Clashes were reported at Mayo Road in central Kolkata, from where the main team of agitators lead by the CPI(M) state secretary, Suryakanta Mishra and Left Front chairman, Biman Bose, started marching towards the secretariat.
Former minister Kanti Ganguly was injured in the scuffle. He was seen lying on the bare road under the sun.
The agitation programme came against the backdrop of the Left continuously facing erosion of vote share in all elections of Bengal since 2011. Traffic in the city was thrown out of gear in the city since midday.
Participants started pelting stones and bricks targeting policemen, who retaliated with lathi charge and firing of tear gas cells. At Betor in Howrah, water cannons were used to disperse the mob. Policemen were also seen picking up stone thrown at them by agitators and throwing them back at the pelters.
The agitation was supposed to start at 1 pm. But before midday, a team of CPI(M) legislators and supporters, lead by the leader of the Left parties in the Assembly, Sujan Chakrabarty suddenly arrived in front of the secretariat and tried to enter it through north gate. Though initially caught by surprise, a huge police team deployed there took control of the situation in minutes and after some minor scuffle, arrested Chakraborty, along with four other CPI(M) legislators.
While three team of agitators marched towards Nabanna from the Kolkata side, two teams started from Howrah.
CPI(M) politburo member and MP, Mohammad Salim said, “After converting West Bengal into a police state, the chief minister fled from Kolkata to avoid facing the people.” “Police provoked us a peaceful agitation programme,” said CPI(M) state secretary Suryakanta Mishra.
“CPI(M) is completely isolated from the people. Drama and hooliganism are their only weapons,” said Trinamool Congress secretary general and education minister Partha Chatterjee.