TMC feud: Minister says manhandled by MP supporters

Mala Roy and Sovandeb Chattopadhyay.

A TMC factional feud erupted in South Kolkata on Tuesday evening during a screening of a movie as part of the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF).

State power minister and senior TMC leader Sovandeb Chattopadhyay alleged that he was manhandled by his fellow party MP and KMC chairperson Mala Roy’s supporters after he had switched off some of the street lights during the screening of a film in the open near Pratapaditya Road crossing in South Kolkata.

The film Praktan (Former), starring actors Rituparna Sengupta and Prosenjit Chatterjee, was chosen to be screened on Tuesday as part of KIFF’s ‘Paray Paray Cinema’ (movies in every neighbourhood) initiative. To provide a better visibility, the street lights in the area were switched off on Chattopadhyay’s orders.

While the screening was on, supporters of Roy allegedly visited the area and switched on the lights. According to Roy’s supporters, local residents had complained of inconveniences due to darkness. This led to an argument between the supporters of Chattopadhyay and Roy, during which the state minister was allegedly manhandled.

“I was organising an open-air movie screening near Rashbehari Avenue. For better visibility, we needed to switch off the street lights. We did the same and that too after getting a NOC from Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC),” said Chattopadhyay.

To mark their protest, Chattopadhyay’s supporters blocked Rashbehari Crossing, which led to a massive traffic congestion.

“The lights were switched on by supporters of Mala Roy. I called up a senior official at KMC who was in charge of street lights. After a few minutes, lights were switched off and we started the show. Within a few seconds, the lights were again switched on and her supporters heckled me. Finally, we had to call off the show. I strongly condemn this incident,” Chattopadhyay added.

Meanwhile, a police team rushed to the area to control the situation.

However, TMC MP Roy denied the allegations.

“The local residents complained that he (Sovandeb) had switched off all the street lights in the area, even in places where there was no screening. He was requested to switch off street lights on the stretch where the movie was being screened. But he had also switched off lights in Rashbehari Avenue, Sree Mohan Lane, SP Mukherjee Road among others. This angered the local people and they protested. However, no one heckled him.”

Meanwhile, the TMC leadership has sought an explanation from party authorities of South Kolkata over the assault on Chattopadhyay.

BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya mocked the alleged infighting of the TMC and said the people of Bengal would be the best judge in 2021 assembly polls. “There are reports of Sovandeb Chattopadhyay being assaulted by supporters of Mala Roy. How will the party protect democracy when it does not have coordination among themselves,” he said.

(With PTI inputs)