Sporadic violence as West Bengal shuts down over Nandigram


Kolkata : West Bengal Wednesday witnessed an effective dawn-to-dusk shutdown following a protest called by the Trinamool Congress over the continuing violence in Nandigram area.

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“There were disruptions across West Bengal and train services were affected. We have got reports of stray incidents of violence, especially from Cooch Behar and South Dinajpur districts in north Bengal,” West Bengal Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told IANS.

He said altogether 2,350 people, mostly protagonists of the shutdown, were arrested across the state.

In Kolkata activists of the Trinamool Congress and the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) clashed in some places.

In north Kolkata, CPI-M supporters snatched police batons and attacked Trinamool supporters and leaders, including former union minister Ajit Panja.

“We will look into the incident and take action,” Kolkata Police Commissioner Gautam Mohan Chakraborty said.

In the evening, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said the shutdown was total and people responded spontaneously.

“We exercised extreme caution despite provocations from the CPI-M and police. CPI-M men even snatched police batons and attacked our senior leaders,” she said.

However, the CPI-M claimed that the shutdown was a flop. “People have foiled the shutdown by rejecting the call,” CPI-M leader Shymal Chakraborty claimed.

Banerjee had said Tuesday that her party would “paralyse” West Bengal Wednesday for the sake of peace and the right to live in Nandigram – where trouble continues despite the government scrapping a proposed industrial complex following stiff opposition to land acquisition moves.

At least five people were killed in fresh violence in Nandigram last weekend, taking the death toll since January to 28.

In most parts of the state, including Kolkata, shops and business establishments were closed while train and bus services were hit badly as the shutdown was near total. The industrial belts of West Bengal were not much affected.

“Flights operated normally,” Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International (NSCBI) airport director V.K. Monga told IANS. The air passengers, however, had a harrowing time reaching the airport in the absence of taxis while many chose to reach the airport in the wee hours.

Kolkata’s metro service functioned as usual.

Eastern Railway officials said local trains were most affected while long distance trains were delayed. South Eastern Railway sources also said long distance trains were affected and reached the terminal station of Howrah late owing to blockades on the tracks since morning.

Trinamool Congress had kept essential services, healthcare, media and the IT sectors outside the purview of the agitation.

Nonetheless, chaos persisted.

“My mother has passed away in Chandannagore in Hooghly district but I cannot go home because of the shutdown,” a tearful commuter, Kallol Sarkar, said at Howrah station.