Normal life partially hit in 12-hour Bengal bandh by LF

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(With additional inputs) Kolkata, Feb 12 (PTI) Normal life was partially affected on Friday in West Bengal which saw sporadic incidents of violence during the 12-hour state-wide bandh called by the Left Front in protest against police action on its activists during their march to the state secretariat.

The bandh, which began at 6 am, took place on a day when schools reopened across the state after a gap of 11 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sporadic incidents of violence and road and rail blockades were reported from several parts of the state during the bandh as activists of the LF and Congress, which lent support, picketed and squatted on railway tracks to stop the movement of trains, opfficials said.

In East Bardhaman district, stones were thrown at buses plying on the road by alleged strike supporters. When police tried to disperse them a scuffle ensued and several protestors were arrested.

In the city bandh supporters tried to break past police barricades on arterial Central Avenue and Jadavpur.

This prompted the police to use force to stop theam and led to the arrest of a number of them, they said.

Left activists also blocked roads at Hastings, Shyambazar and Moulali areas of the city. There was tension when Congress supporters tried to forcibly shut down shops in Jadavpur, the officials said.

An official said SFI activists blocked a portion of the road near Jadavpur 8B bus terminus and played football, table tennis and carrom.

Protesters clashed with the police at Barasat and Belgharia in neighbouring North 24 Parganas district, in Durgapur, Mathabhanga in Coochbehar, Dhupguri in Jalpaiguri and Midnapore town, the official said.

In some places like Siliguri, bandh supporters tried to enforce the strike in schools. Party leaders and adminsitrations of the schools stopped the activists from doing so.

Left Front leader Sujan Chakraborty said school students had not been prevented from physically attending their classes.

Massive police presence was witnessed on the roads in the city during the day to ensure that public transport operated normally.

Left supporters blocked railway tracks and roads in Malda, Bardhaman, Raiganj, Asansol, Dankuni and parts of Kolkata, besides in North 24 Parganas and Nadia districts.

Suburban train services in the Sealdah division and South Eastern Railway's Howrah- Kharagpur section were affected as agitators blocked railway tracks at several stations, Railway spokespersons said.

The CPI(M) claimed that the people of the state had spontabeously supported the strike call given by the LF.

'The way students and youths (of Left student organisations SFI and DYFI on Friday) were beaten up is unprecedented,' CPI(M) Politburo member Mohammed Salim said.

The Congress echoing Salim said the strike's success proved that the days of the TMC governmentin the state are 'numbered'.

Indian Secular Front leader Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui too extended support to the bandh.

Condemning the police action on Friday, he blamed the TMC government of administrative repression while it opposes the 'unconstitutional activities' of the BJP.

West Bengal BJP President Dilip Ghosh said the TMC administration gave a free run to the CPI(M) and the Congress, and it proves that the ruling party is trying to help them to revive its ground in Bengal.

'We all have seen how the CPI(M) and Congress were allowed to have a free run. This proves a grand alliance is in the offing. We have defeated the Grand Alliance (of RJD and Congress) in Biha and we will defeat it in Bengal,' Ghosh added. PTI BSM PNT KK KK KK