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Congress Bengal shutdown evokes partial response

By Ians

Kolkata, Aug 18: Amid reports of sporadic clashes, the Congress-sponsored 12 hour shutdown on Tuesday against the "anarchy and lawlessness" in West Bengal evoked partial response as government and commercial establishments functioned normally in most parts of the state.

While the shutdown was largely effective in the Congress strongholds of Murshidabad and Malda districts, it evoked little response in others parts of the state including state capital Kolkata.

Strike: File Photo

With the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government taking a tough stand in foiling the shutdown, there were reports of shutdown enforcers resorting to vandalism.

Scores of Congress activists were arrested across the state.

State Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury took off his shirt and joined party activists in protests after police allegedly baton-charged them for forcibly trying to prevent employees from attending a government office in Bahrampur in Murshidabad district.

Buses were vandalised in a few places and the Sabang block development office was ransacked allegedly by Congress activists.

"Police have not even spared women and are raining batons on us for participating in a democratic protest. If this government thinks it can deter us with violence, then we are ready even to receive bullets," said Chowdhury.

Chowdhury claimed that three party lawmakers, including Malda Lok Sabha member Mausam Noor, were heckled by police.

Train movement, particularly suburban train services on the Sealdah section, was disrupted with Congress activists resorting to demonstrations on the tracks.

As many as 16 suburban trains were cancelled and many others were held up for hours on the Sealdah section.

In Kolkata, the public transport system, including buses and metro train services, operated normally although the number of commuters was comparatively less.

In Murshidabad and Malda, educational institutions and commercial establishments remained shut although government offices were open.

If Trinamool leader and state minister Subrata Mukherjee called the shutdown a complete failure, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, without taking names, took a jibe on Chowdhury's shirtless act.

"Such an act only suits Sourav Ganguly and not others," said Banerjee, referring to the former cricket captain taking off his shirt on the Lord's balcony after India's win in a triangular series in 2002.

"Such theatrics are only for the cameras, posing for the cameras like that they will turn into mere pictures themselves," Banerjee said at a party meet here.

Chowdhury in turn claimed Banerjee's response was indicative of the effect of the shutdown.

"Banerjee's response makes it amply clear that the people's response to our call has rattled her. We don't claim that we have been able to shut down the entire Bengal but people have wholeheartedly supported us.

"People at large have lent their voice to condemning the Trinamool under which rapes, murders, arson, anarchy have become the order of the day," said Chowdhury.

The Lok Sabha member from Baharampur also wondered if Banerjee 'wanted to get him killed'.

"What does the chief minister mean by saying we will turn into pictures. Does she mean she will get me killed?" he asked.

Congress legislator and former state minister Manas Bhuniya too claimed the shutdown was successful.

"People have wholeheartedly supported the shutdown, markets are closed, schools and colleges are closed and the attendance in government offices is negligible. The government is forcibly operating buses and trains but they are deserted," said Bhuniya.


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