BENGAL POLITICS: Bandh brawl turns into Nandi turf war – from the frying-pan into the fire ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Tamluk, Sept. 7: A 400-strong mob of alleged Trinamul Congress supporters thrashed CPM leaders, ransacked one of their offices and torched another in the only Nandigram pocket under the Left party’s influence.
The three-hour rampage from 9am in Reyapara, at the approach to Nandigram, came on a day the CPM and its labour arm Citu had called a bandh, and was seen as part of the Trinamul’s attempts to wrest control of the village.
A Citu office was also vandalised, throwing up a picture of a union that couldn’t protect its own office in a rival-held zone even as its cadres ruled the streets in other parts of Bengal to enforce today’s shutdown.
Trinamul had won all the 17 gram panchayats and two panchayat samitis in Nandigram when it swept the 2008 rural polls. But the Reyapara seat in the East Midnapore zilla parishad was won by a CPM candidate, though he switched to Trinamul later. The CPM has been able to hold meetings and processions in the village, activities which have not been possible in Nandigram’s other pockets.
CPM leaders alleged the rampage was staged to scare them into abandoning efforts to bring back supporters who had fled because of threats. Trinamul leaders denied their activists were involved in the raids and pinned the blame on “villagers”.
Police said the trouble began when Trinamul supporters took out a march this morning against the bandh and spotted Uttam Bera, the CPM’s local committee secretary of a nearby village, in the Reyapara market.
“The marchers surrounded Uttam and beat him with bamboo sticks. He then ran to the party’s zonal committee office. Soon, the three-storey office building was surrounded by the activists,” said a police officer.
Some of the Trinamul supporters chased Bera into the office and beat him there. Two other local committee secretaries — Kalipada Das from Reyapara and Amalendu Bankra from adjoining Khodambari — were inside at the time. Bera and the others managed to run to the second floor and locked themselves in a room.
“They were hitting Uttam. When we went to save him, we were also beaten up,” said Jana. A police team arrived from a nearby outpost and wielded batons to disperse the mob.
The Trinamul supporters then marched to the CPM local committee office, located in another part of Reyapara, and set fire to a portion of it. The furniture, papers and other items were burnt and the building damaged.
The next target was the adjacent Citu office. After that, it was the CPM local committee office at Khodambari, around 1km away, which was pelted with stones.
Superintendent of police Ashok Biswas said a Trinamul supporter had been arrested.
Ashok Guria, a member of the CPM’s East Midnapore secretariat, said: “The Trinamul’s attack was planned as they want to foil our efforts (to bring back our supporters).”
Trinamul leaders denied the attackers were from the party. “Some villagers demonstrated at the CPM offices. Our supporters were not involved,” said Nandigram leader Abu Taher.
Unions unite for strike, not in Bengal – the nexus remains in a bid for total supremacy ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
New Delhi/Calcutta, Sept. 7: Congress-affiliated Intuc today joined hands with Left trade unions Citu and Aituc to enforce the all-India general strike, marking a first in the history of such shutdowns.
“It’s the broadest unity ever. For the first time in its history, Intuc has participated in a general strike. The response to the strike has been beyond our expectations,” Gurudas Dasgupta, the Aituc general secretary and CPI MP, said.
The 24-hour strike was called by the Left unions to protest against rising prices, the UPA’s divestment policy and job security of contractual workers, among other things.
Other Left leaders claimed it was for the first time a strike call had elicited such an “unexpected response” outside Bengal, Tripura and Kerala. “We must acknowledge that the strike got a momentum because of Intuc,” Tapan Sen, the Citu general secretary and CPM MP, said.
The Bengal Intuc, however, did not support the strike, saying it wanted the shutdown in industrial units only.
Dasgupta also “appreciated the personal role” of Intuc leader and Congress MP Sanjeeva Reddy, who claimed he had withstood a lot of pressure from his party to join the strike.
“I will meet the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi and apprise them of the strike. We want the Centre to take pro-worker measures,” Reddy said. Inspired by the success of the strike, Left leaders have given a call for a march to Parliament next February. “If the government does not sort out issues raised by the trade unions, thousands will march to Parliament,” Dasgupta said.
Others said there would a Parliament gherao during the winter session if the Centre did not concede to the unions’ demands.