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WB bandh: Buses torched, officials beaten up
March 16, 2007 11:58 IST
Last Updated: March 16, 2007 21:24 IST
Buses were torched, road and rail traffic disrupted and top district administrative officials and policemen beaten up in West Bengal on Friday as life was paralysed by an opposition-sponsored strike called to protest police firing at Nandigram.
The strike, called by Trinamool Congress, Congress, SUCI, Bharatiya Janata Party and a Naxalite faction for varying durations, received support from unusual quarters with key partners of ruling Left Front � Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party and Forward Bloc -- saying that the people's response to the protest against Wednesday's police violence at Nandigram was 'spontaneous.'
Around 1,400 people who tried to enforce the shutdown were arrested from across the state.
Roads were deserted as most of the vehicular traffic kept off while train services on both Eastern and South Eastern Railway's Howrah and Sealdah divisions were disrupted.
State Inspector General of Police (law and order) Raj Kanojia said 1,100 persons were arrested from the districts for squatting on rail tracks, putting up road blockades and damaging or torching buses.
In the metropolis, 300 arrests were made for similar offences, city police sources said.
Eleven persons were arrested for trying to approach Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee's residence at Palm Avenue in Kolkata on vehicles, DCP (HQ) P K Chattopadhyay said.
State Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty said 100 government buses were damaged by supporters of the strike, entailing a loss of Rs 10 crore for the exchequer.
Kanojia said Trinamool Congress and SUCI supporters beat up two deputy magistrates in North Dinajpur district. One of them was hospitalised in a critical condition.
Embattled Nandigram saw Bhumi Uchched Pratirodh committee (Committee Against Land Acquisition) activists attacking two police camps as tension continued to prevail.
East Midnapore district magistrate Anup Kumar Agarwal said the police did not fire in retaliation. He also had no report of any lathicarge or bursting of tear gas shells by the police.
Bodies of two of the 14 killed in Wednesday's police firing were cremated during the day while the corpses of the others still lay unclaimed, according to Kanojia.
Trinamool Congress workers blocked the Chandipur-Nandigram road with logs and boulders. Blockades were also reported from Mechada, Nandakumar and Tamluk areas of the district.
In Tamluk, the district magistrate's office was attacked by strike supporters who smashed window panes.
Elsewhere in the state, schools and colleges were mostly closed while government offices recorded 20 to 25 per cent attendance.
Though Kanoja claimed the situation in the information technology sector was normal, S Radhakrishnan, president of Bengal Chamber of Commerce, said most IT companies were closed and only skeleton staff was retained to sustain round-the-clock operation.
Eastern and South Eastern Railway sources said train services in both Howrah and Sealdah divisions were hit due to picketing at various stations by bandh supporters.
In Jalpaiguri town, Deputy Superintendent of Police Swapan Das and 20 others, including six policemen, were injured in a clash between pro and anti bandh activists. Das was in hospital, a report from the district said.
SUCI supporters also staged demonstration in front of the state secretariat. Rapid Action Force personnel were deployed at vantage points.
Altogether 12 state buses were either torched or damaged in the city. The CPI-M party office was damaged at Panchla in Howrah.