Nation-wide strike: mixed response in Bengal

The nation-wide strike on Wednesday received mixed response across West Bengal. Although transport and law and order situation in Kolkata remained largely peaceful, sporadic violence was reported from parts of the city and other districts. The strike was, however, largely successful outside Kolkata.

Ten central trade unions said that around 25 crore people across the country would participate in a nation-wide strike on Wednesday to protest “anti-people” policies of the Centre. INTUC, CITU, AITUC, HMS, AIUTUC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF, UTUC along with several independent federations and associations had adopted a declaration to go on a nation-wide strike on January 8. Along with this, about 60 organisations of students and elected office bearers of some universities have also decided to join the strike to raise their voice against increased fee and “commercialisation of education”.

During the day, tyres of a bus were deflated on Rasbehari Avenue in south Kolkata by protesters, and passengers were dragged down from the bus. A brawl soon followed there between police and protesters, and Rapid Action Force (RAF) had to be brought in. Scuffles between police and protesters also took place in Salt Lake and Jadavpur. Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sujan Chakraborty was detained along with 150 protesters from Jadavpur. Members of Students’ Federation of India (SFI) led a peaceful protest outside Presidency University and requested teachers to boycott classes and join them in support.

Some students blocked the road outside the university, playing cricket and setting up carrom boards on the road. In Entally and Mullickbazar, shops were allegedly shut down forcibly by unruly protesters.

Buses were damaged in Cooch Behar and West Midnapore. In Cooch Behar, passengers were dragged down from a bus. Violence erupted in Malda’s Sujapur as some police vans were set on fire. Police fired rubber bullets and used tear gas to disperse protesters.

Trains were held up in several places like Barasat, Krishnanagar, Chandannagar, Purulia, Khanyan and Burdwan. In some places, protestors sat on railway tracks.  A ticket counter was forcibly shut down in Dum Dum by the protesters for a while although it was reopened later. Bombs were found placed under train coaches in Barasat and Hridaypur in South 24 Parganas, but were defused timely.

The ruling party in Bengal, Trinamool Congress has said that it is a tradition of the Left trade unions to bring goons into a strike to make it successful. Senior leader Biman Basu however said that he won’t comment on the matter as he was not associated with trade unions. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that the Left had resorted to “hooliganism” during the strike by planting bombs. She said strict action will be taken against those who tried to create trouble.

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