Bandh throttles life ; CRPF set to take control of Nandigram

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Kolkata, Nov 12 (UNI) The Left Front government was dealt a body blow today as the combined Opposition-sponsored 24-hour statewide bandh throttled life in the state, even as the CRPF was poised to take control of strife-torn Nandigram.

In a rare move, Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi went to meet CPI(M) patriarch Jyoti Basu to broker peace in Nandigram, while Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee sent a missive to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to come and witness the ''bloodbath'' in the embattled region.

After a prolonged wait, CRPF personnel were set to take control of strife-torn Nandigram today. '' One company of CRPF is entering Nandigram, while five more companies are on way, '' Home Secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray told reporters.

The Central forces were being deployed following a request of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil after the state police had failed to tackle the turmoil.

The arrival of CRPF took place a day after the CPI(M) claimed that Nandigram was now ''free from terror'' with the party supporters, who had long been driven out of home by the Trinamool Congress-led Bhumi Uchched Protirodh Committee, completing their homecoming.

While the Congress and CPI(ML) Liberation gave separate calls for a 24-hour bandh, the SUCI and BJP called a 48-hour strike.

Meanwhile, the Governor was closetted with veteran marxist leader Jyoti Basu for about 40 minutes, seeking his intervention for restoration of peace in Nandigram.

'' I have confidence in Mr Basu. I have requested him to see that peace is restored and law and order situation maintained in Nandigram, '' he told reporters.

'' Mr Basu has told me that he would talk to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in this regard,'' the Governor said.

Though not calling it a bandh, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee vowed to cripple the state for an indefinite period, demanding removal of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee Government allegedly for committing a massacre in Nandigram.

Talking to mediapersons at Tamluk in East Midnapore, where she had been camping on her way to Nandigram, Ms Banerjee said, '' Tomorrow an NDA team under Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha L K Advani is supposed to go to strife-torn Nandigram. '' '' I have sent a request to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, presently in Moscow, and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to come and see the silent sufferings of the people in Nandigram, '' she added.

Reiterating of not calling a bandh tomorrow, she said, '' We have called 'Bangla Achal' (Immobilise Bengal), equivalent to non-cooperation to the government, but we are cooperating whole heartedly with the people. '' Pradesh Congress working president Pradip Bhattacharya said they would observe a ''Black Day'' tomorrow in Bengal and along with the Trinamool Congress join the November 14 rally, orgainsed by the Intellectual Forum, to show solidarity with the victims of Nandigram.

Meanwhile, life came to a halt with most of the shops, markets, business establishments and educational institutions remaining closed. Vehicles went off the streets and train services were disrupted on both Howrah and Sealdah divisions. However, flight operation was almost as usual.

Official sources said eight to ten per cent people attended their duties in State Secretariat Writers' Buildings.

IG (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia said 1100 people had been arrested so far from all over the state for violating law and order.

Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar, who was on a 48-hour hunger strike protesting the volatile situation in Nandigram, headed for Nandigram today.

Barring some sporadic incidents in the city and districts, the bandh was by and large peaceful, sources said, adding that two buses were torched in Kolkata and one in Siliguri, while an ambulance was damaged in Malda and the Civic Supplies office vandalised in Barasat of North 24 Parganas by the bandh protagonists.

UNI

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