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Left activists, cops clash near West Bengal secretariat

PTI | Kolkata | Updated: 13-09-2019 21:04 IST | Created: 13-09-2019 21:04 IST
Left activists, cops clash near West Bengal secretariat

Clashes broke out here on Friday between the police and the Left Front activists when they were marching towards the West Bengal secretariat demanding employment for the youth of the state. LF leaders claimed that around 60 activists were injured in the clashes, five of them critically, while the police said people on both sides were wounded.

According to sources, police burst tear gas shells and used water cannons to disperse CPI(M) youth and student activists, who in turn hurled stones at them. Members of Students Federation of India (SFI) and Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) had taken out a rally on Thursday from Singur, the venue of the abandoned Tata small car plant, demanding jobs for the youth of the state.

The rally was scheduled to culminate at the state secretariat on Friday afternoon, but was stopped 5 km away near Mullick Ghat in Howrah. Sources said the activists in their attempt to move forward broke one of the three barricades set up by the police at Mullick Ghat.

A scuffle broke out with the agitators hurling bricks at the police, who retaliated by bursting tear gas shells and baton charge, they said. The injured have been admitted to a nearby government hospital for treatment, the police said.

"We were told by the police that five of our representatives would be allowed to enter the state secretariat to submit a memorandum. But as soon as our peaceful rally reached Mullick Ghat, police resorted to unprovoked lathi charge and bursting of tear gas shells," DYFI state secretary Sayandeep Mitra said. A number of SFI and DYFI workers fell unconscious during the clash, he said.

"We were to submit thousands of applications seeking jobs and answers on various other issues from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as part of the TMC government's 'Didi ke Bolo' public outreach initiative," Mitra told reporters. Banerjee is referred to as 'Didi' or elder sister by rank and file of the party.

The Mamata Banerjee government is sitting on the "debris of an industry" at Singur, he said. "She has failed to bring about economic development in West Bengal. Several business summits were organised over the past few years but no investment has been made. Lakhs of youths are unemployed," the Left youth leader added.

Later in the evening, the SFI and DYFI district units took out protest marches in various parts of the state. The two Left bodies have decided to observe a two-day-long 'Black day' across the state in the weekend to protest against the police assault.

West Bengal Left Front Chairman and CPI(M) Politburo member Biman Bose condemned the "brutal attack" on the students and youth activists. "The way student and youth activists were attacked reflects the authoratarian attitude of the state government," CPI(M) leader Mohammed Salim, who too is a member of the Politburo, said.

Countering the allegations, West Bengal Education Minister Partha Chatterjee said the Left Front activists were trying to disturb the "peaceful atmosphere" in the state. "What was SFI and DYFI doing during the Left Front rule when industries were being shut down and flight of capital from Bengal took place? Were they sleeping? Our government has revived industry in the state," Chatterjee, who is also the secretary general of TMC, said.

Singur had become the hotbed of West Bengal politics in 2008 after the Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee led an agitation against the erstwhile Left Front government over acquisition of farm land the car factory. The TMC agitation eventually led to the exit of the proposed small car factory and catapulted Banerjee to power in 2011..


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