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Protest March Turns Violent in Kolkata

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Kolkata: Policemen charge lathis on workers of parties affiliated to the Left Front during a protest after a number of Left Front MLAs including its legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty were detained from outside the State Secretariat even before the start of the opposition group's rally called to protest against unemployment, farmers' distress and other issues in Kolkata, on May 22, 2017. (Photo: IANS) by .
Policemen charge lathis on workers of parties affiliated to the Left Front during a protest in Kolkata (Photo: IANS)

At least 79 police personnel and over 100 Left protesters were injured as security forces used tear gas and carried out baton charges on thousands of belligerent activists who broke barricades and hurled stones at the police here in Kolkata and neighbouring Howrah during a protest march to the secretariat….reports Asian Lite News

Kolkata: Policemen charge lathis on workers of parties affiliated to the Left Front during a protest after a number of Left Front MLAs including its legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty were detained from outside the State Secretariat even before the start of the opposition group's rally called to protest against unemployment, farmers' distress and other issues in Kolkata, on May 22, 2017. (Photo: IANS) by .
Policemen charge lathis on workers of parties affiliated to the Left Front during a protest in Kolkata (Photo: IANS)

Police officers in Kolkata and Howrah said 217 people, including 11 Left lawmakers, were arrested after they indulged in violence and violated prohibitory orders during the “March to Nabanna (state secretariat)”. The stir was organised by 11 Left peasant bodies to press for their 18-point charter of demands including measures to stop farmers’ distress and rising unemployment.

Sixty nine police personnel were injured in Kolkata, and ten others in Howrah in scuffles with agitators, pelting of stones or when hit with sticks.

In New Delhi, Left Front spearhead, the Communist Party of India-Marxist’s General Secretary Sitaram Yechury claimed around 250 Left supporters sustained injuries.

The injured included former state minister and CPI-M leader Kanti Ganguly, All India Forward Bloc state general secretary Naren Chatterjee and Revolutionary Socialist Party veteran Subhas Naskar. CPI-M politburo member Mohammed Salim also sustained a leg injury.

“Even Surjya da (CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra) was hit with a stick when we were holding a sit-in in protest against police atrocities earlier in the day,” said Naskar, also a former minister.

Salim, and ex CPI-M MPs Shamik Lahiri and Ramchandra Dom were among the Left leaders arrested and taken to the police lock-up, said Mishra, who described the protests as “successful” and claimed over two lakh people participated in the march organised with the slogan “Bangla biponno, tai cholo Nabanna (Bengal is in crisis, so March to Nabanna)”.

Kolkata: Workers of parties affiliated to the Left Front clash with police after a number of Left Front MLAs including its legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty were detained from outside the State Secretariat even before the start of the opposition group's rally called to protest against unemployment, farmers' distress and other issues in Kolkata, on May 22, 2017. (Photo: IANS) by .
Workers of parties affiliated to the Left Front clash with police in Kolkata (Photo: IANS)

LF chairman Biman Bose announced that a statewide condemnation Day would be observed on Tuesday.

Several areas in Kolkata and Howrah district turned into battlefields as the Left activists used sticks and bamboo poles to break guard walls and barricades, but could not penetrate the steel walls erected by the police.

Nabanna in adjacent Howrah district was virtually converted into a fortress with all entry points blocked and barricaded, Agates closed,A and approach roads closed to traffic.

However, there was high drama even before the scheduled start of the march, as a number of Left Front lawmakers including its legislature party leader Sujan Chakraborty reached Nabanna around noon and shouted slogans at its gate, demanding they be allowed in.

Police arrested 24 Left activists and 11 MLAs from the spot. They were released late in the evening.

At 1 p.m., the entire Left Front leadership hit the roads as workers from the constituent parties in the city as also near and far flung districts gathered at five points here and in Howrah and tried to march to the secretariat, but came up against stiff resistance from the heavily-armed police.

Stopped, the agitators sat on the road and demonstrated and then broke the barriers at Mayo Road, Shibpur and other points to continue the march. Some of them were seen battling police and countering batons with bricks.

Police, using water canons, carrying out baton charges and lobbing tear gas shells, managed to temporarily disperse the Left workers, but they soon regrouped and confronted police again, shouting “Inquilab Zindabad” and holding aloft the red flags.

Kolkata police’s Joint Commissioner (headquarters) Supratim Sarkar said 182 arrests were made, of them 45 women. Those arrested included prominent Left leaders.

“The Left leaders had promised us that their protest would be peaceful. But today, without any provocation the protestors continuously pelted stones. Sand was thrown at the police. Before matters got out of hand, police baton charged or burst tear gas shells,” he said.

The government ridiculed the LF march.

“The CPI-M is in crisis. They are not there in public discourse.. So they are trying to save their existence,” said state Education Minister and Trinamool Congress Secretary General Partha Chatterjee.

Trinamool MP and Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Avishek Banerjee said: “The administration will take suitable action against those who want to disrupt Bengal’s law and order by hurling stones at police. The Chief Minister has given the requisite orders.”