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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Mixed response to BJP-sponsored North Bengal bandh, sporadic clashes reported


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Kolkata/Siliguri: The BJP-sponsored dawn-to-dusk Northern West Bengal bandh evoked mixed response on Friday with reports of sporadic clashes between the bandh protagonists and the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress activists pouring in from several quarters.

The saffron brigade called the shutdown in the eight districts in the northern part of the state in protest against what they called “atrocities” on the tribals and the death of a party activist in alleged police firing.

BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar accused the ruling Trinamool Congress of letting loose a reign of terror in several areas of North Bengal.

He called upon the people to protest the “misrule” of the ruling party and make the bandh a grand success.

However, movement of students, health and emergency services have been kept out of the purview of the strike.

The bandh drew sharp criticism from the Trinamool Congress with the party charging the BJP with “dismantling the peaceful atmosphere of the state and attempting to politicise” the Kaliagunj incident.

Party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh described the bandh as totally”politically motivated”.

Meanwhile, Many private buses kept off the roads and shops and markets remained shut in several areas.

The bandh that started from 6 AM saw BJP workers hitting the streets at important intersections and stopping vehicles. They also brought out processions in support of the shutdown.

In Cooch Behar district, though government-run buses plied, private buses kept off the roads in the morning hours.

In Jalpaiguri district, most shops remained closed. At Kadamtala, bandh supporters forcibly stopped state-run buses.

Reports of disruptions have also been received from the other districts in the region.

The north Bengal region comprises Cooch Behar, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Darjeeling, Kalimpong, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda districts.

Reports of breaking of windowpanes of buses, forcible closure of shops and business establishments and post-office, putting up road blockades and sitting on railway tracks have been pouring in from several districts.

Tension ran high at different areas with rival supporters almost coming to blows forcing police to intervene.

The immediate trigger for the shutdown is the death of a BJP worker Mrityunjay Burman in Radhikapur near Kaliaganj in North Dinajpur district. BJP has alleged that Mrityunjay died in police firing on Wednesday night.

It may be mentioned that Kaliaganj in North Dinajpur district has been on the boil following the alleged criminal assault and subsequent murder of a teenager, whose body was found in a canal last week. Footage of the girl’s corpse being dragged by the police on the road has gone viral on social media.

On Tuesday, a tribal agitation in protest against the unsavoury incident turned violent and the Kaliaganj police station was torched and several vehicles were set on fire and some policemen sustained injuries.

The agitators fought a pitched battle with the police and the situation came to such a pass that the cops had to lob tear gas shells to pacify the mob.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code have already been promulgated and internet services put on hold till April 30 in four wards of Kaliaganj municipal area to prevent any further breach of peace.

The North Bengal region has in recent years emerged as the main base of the BJP in the state, where it was only a fringe player even five years back. The saffron outfit won all the eight Lok Sabha seats in North Bengal in 2019, and also bagged a significant number of constituencies in the Assembly elections held two years later

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