Violence marks Bengal bandh; CRPF reaches Nandigram

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Kolkata, Nov 12 (UNI) Sporadic violence marked the 24-hour opposition-sponsored bandh that paralysed life in West Bengal even as the first batch of CRPF personnel reached Nandigram to take control of the embattled area.

Official reports said in all 1,100 people had been arrested on various charges while several persons were injured in clashes and 27 buses damaged by bandh supporters throughout the state.

While the Congress and CPI (ML) Liberation gave separate calls for a 24-hour bandh, the SUCI and BJP called a 48-hour strike in protest against the recent spurt in violence in Nandigram in East Midnapore district.

However, both SUCI and BJP withdrew the call for a bandh for the second consecutive day to give ''relief to the people'' and in view of the Chhat festival.

While Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee declared that her party would continue with its programme to 'immobilise' the state Government, the Congress would observe a 'black day' tomorrow.

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 massacre of hundreds of people in Nandigram While the Opposition claimed the bandh to be total and spontaneous, the CPI (M) alleged that it was enforced on the people through terror.

Ms.Banerjee said an NDA team, headed by Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L K Advani, would visit Nandigram tomorrow.

''I have also 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 told reporters at Tamluk in East Midnapore district, where she had been camping on way to Nandigram.

Meanwhile, in a rare move, Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi went to meet CPI (M) patriarch Jyoti Basu to broker peace in Nandigram, while Mamata Banerjee sent a missive to the Prime Minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to come and witness the ''bloodbath'' in the strife-torn region.

After a prolonged wait, CRPF personnel were set to take control of Nandigram today as one company of jawans entered the area while five more were 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 Chief Minister alleged that though the Government had sought CRPF deployment much earlier, the jawans were sent late. ''Everybody knows who are responsible for the late arrival,'' he said without naming anybody even as Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi was said to have opposed sending Central forces to West Bengal. ''But I thank External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Had he not taken initiative, CRPF would not have reached here,'' the Chief Minister said.

Meanwhile, the Governor was closeted 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,'' the Governor told reporters saying he would also hold talks with the Chief Minister.

Life came to a halt with most 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 because of blockades. However, flight operation and the city's underground metro system functioned as usual.

Official sources said eight to ten per cent people attended their duties in the State Secretariat Writers' Buildings. Among those absent were even some Ministers.

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

UNI

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