Violence mars Bloc bandh

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Kolkata, Feb 6 (UNI) Stray clashes, lathi charge and road blockades marked the Forward Bloc-sponsored 24-hour Bangla Bandh today.

The bandh, called by a Left Front constituent against the government, disrupted train and road transport services and disrupted normal life.

Police lathicharged bandh supporters in several places, including the city's Raja Bazar and Esplanade areas when they stoned buses and put up road blocks at busy intersections holding the vehicular traffic.

Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told UNI that about 700 people had so far been arrested throughout the state on various charges.

The bandh, being supported by the RSP, a Left Front partner and all opposition parties, was called in protest against yesterday's police firing at Dinhata in Cooch Behar district.

While five Forward Bloc supporters, who participated in a law violation programme, were shot dead during a clash with police, a constable succumbed to his injuries today.

Describing the police firing as 'barbaric', the Forward Bloc, a major constituent of the ruling Left Front alleged that the incident was a blot on the state Government.

"The Government is likely to order a magisterial inquiry into the incident after the Chief Minister returns from Delhi. We have sought reports from the District Magistrate the Superintendent of Police," the Home Secretary P R Roy said.

Forward Bloc State Secretary Ashok Ghosh claimed that the bandh was spontaneous and reflected people's protest and anger against the police firing.

Veteran CPI(M) leader Shyamal Chakraborty said, "Nowadays some shops and offices remain closed nomatter who calls a bandh. Today was no exception." He claimed that the situation in the industrial areas and IT sector was normal and government office attendance was above 70 percent.

"We have no differences with Forward Bloc. We will sort out the matters through bilateral discussions. We will also have to see what happened on both sides that prompted police firing," he said.

Forward Bloc supporters, who took to the streets from early morning, blocked railway tracks in many areas halting train services in Eastern and South-Eastern Railway's Howrah and Sealdah divisions.

At Uluberia in Howrah district, state Cooperation Minister Rabindranath Ghosh, who is a trade union leader of Forward Bloc, led a group that blocked the railway tracks.

With the supporters of the Congress and Trinamool Congress joining the issue actively, bandh supporters blocked the Howrah Bridge for a long time and obstructed vehicles at busy intersections in different parts of the state.

Forward Bloc MP Hiten Burman and legislator Niranjan Pandit were among the partymen arrested by police respectively at Mathabhanga in Cooch Behar district and Goghat in Hooghly district for puting up blockades.

In Kolkata, shutters were down in most of the shops and markets while educational institutions remained closed for the day.

Attendance was thin in many of the government and private offices, banks and other financial institutions.

However, the city's metro system functioned as usual, while flight operation was normal in Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International airport.

According to official reports, functioning was normal in the industrial belts, collieries and tea gardens though the bandh had a mixed impact on other sectors.

UNI KDG BA SS1711

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