Hundreds injured in police brutality on Left supporters marching to the secretariat in Kolkata; Left-Congress combine calls for 12-hour bandh tomorrow

Published : February 11, 2021 21:46 IST

Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel resort to a lathi-charge even as police use water cannons to disperse supporters of the Left and the Congress when they took out a march to the State secretariat in Kolkata, on February 11. Photo: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI

Police uses water cannons to disperse youth activists, mainly of the Left, marching to the State secretariat in Kolkata, on February 11. Photo: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI

In a show of strength and defiance, students and youth activists mainly of the Left Front and some from the Congress undertook a Nabanna Abhijan (march to Nabanna, the State secretariat) in Kolkata on February 11, in protest against the misrule of the Trinamool Congress government. Parts of central Kolkata turned into a war zone as Left activists and the State police waged a pitched battle on the streets. The police resorted to lathi charge and tried to disperse the agitators with water cannon and tear gas. Hundreds of bloodied and battered students, including women activists, had to be hospitalised. The Left and the Congress called for a 12-hour bandh on February 12 in protest against the violence perpetrated on their supporters.

Tens of thousands of student and youth representatives of 10 Left parties, including the Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), and some representatives of the Youth Congress were taking part in the Nabanna Abhijan to present a “red card” to the government, when violence broke out with the police. According to the SFI leader Srijan Bhattacharya, it was a planned attack by the police “in the style of Jalianwalla Bagh”. Srijan said the protesters were carrying rosogollas to distribute among the police. “It was a peaceful march in which we wanted to tell the police that it was a day of joy for them as well, as with Mamata Banerjee’s government’s departure the Left-Congress government would grant them their D.A. (Dearness Allowance) and they would not have to hide under tables anymore,” said Srijan at a press conference after the Nabanna Abhijan. The protesters were carrying placards, cutouts and red cards which they were planning to show to government representatives.

The Left youth leaders claimed that the tear gas used against them was poisonous and many of their comrades fell ill. The police resorted to an indiscriminate lathi charge, they said. “There are rules in lathi charges and issues relating to human rights. They were using the lathis to deliberately crack open the heads of students. Innumerable young women and other students were injured. We did not see any women police…. As of now, 400-500 young protesters have been admitted to three or four hospitals in the city…. The police lathi-charged us even when we were removing the injured from the scene,” said Srijan. The police alleged that the protesters were attacking them by throwing stones and bricks. One police officer was reportedly injured in the violence.

The protesters were carrying a “release order” for the government, in which the failures of the government were highlighted – “unemployment, underemployment, rampant corruption, excessive fee hike in education and zero campus democracy, turning the State into a breeding ground for communal forces, creating an utterly spineless and failed administration.” The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front and the West Bengal Congress strongly condemned the attack on the students and called for an all-Bengal bandh on February 12. Senior CPI(M) leader and leader of the Left Legislature Party in the State Assembly, Sujan Chakraborty said, “Never has such inhuman treatment been meted out by any government to youngsters…. This same government is facilitating the free movement of BJP leaders, but mercilessly attacking the students…. Just as Delhi has declared war on the farmers, the State government has declared war on young people here.”

Abdul Mannan, veteran Congress leader and Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly, said, “We condemn the way the police tortured the students…. The Trinamool, on its way out, displayed its ghastly, totalitarian face today. It refuses to take action against the BJP, but cracks down on Left and the Congress’ struggle to uphold the causes of the common people…. We appeal to the people of the State to support the bandh.”