People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
November 25, 2007
People Thwart Attempts At Disruption Of Communal Harmony
THE people of Kolkata came out in their thousands to maintain amity, peace, and accord on November 21, the day when rabid attempts were made at the behest of forces of fundamentalism to wreck communal harmony in a few areas of the metropolis. Biman Basu who heads the Bengal unit of the CPI(M) as its secretary made a statement calling upon the people of the metropolis to organise peace marches throughout the city, and to ensure that no attempts were successful towards discord and conflict. Biman Basu specifically cautioned the citizens against rumour-mongering and exhorted all concerned to maintain the rhythm of normal life that Kolkata has been so used to enjoying, as the early winter steps softly in.
The events started with vicious intent right from the middle morning. The All-India Minorities Forum (AIMF) and its lesser running mates among the communal outfits started to go on the path of violence against the city people and city life on two issues: the ‘continuing stay in Kolkata of the author Taslima Nasreen’; and the ‘violence at Nandigram.’ With both issues non-starters before the busy denizens of Kolkata, and with the expected coming out to join the road block programme by the parties of political reaction and sectarianism (the small and insignificant PDS who did put in an appearance, would not count) proving naught, the AIMF found a way out of its frustration by orchestrating violence in several areas of the city.
Stoning of vehicles and then the burning of cars and buses, was started at the CIT Road-Pudmapukur crossing, and then spread along the interconnecting lanes and by-lanes for which central Kolkata is renowned, to the A J C Bose Road. The citizens on their way to work and students on their way back from morning schools and colleges were treated to the unusual sight of gangs of unruly mobsters, sprouting anti-Left Front and anti-CPI(M) slogans running amuck. At least two local offices of the CPI(M) were the subject of attack, and two were burnt partially down.
They burnt shops before looting them, and before the city could recover from the unexpected shock (Kolkata, a miniature India has a great tradition of harmony amongst the communities), the police were subjected to stoning and throwing on them of soda water bottles, splintering with a deadly spread of shards of glass all over. A dozen-odd police officers and men received injuries including the deputy commissioner of police of south Kolkata. Showing great restraint in the face of extreme provocation, physical and otherwise, the police resorted to lathi charges and lobbing of tear gas shells.
The blockades would not be withdrawn and the AIMF leadership having lit the fire of unrest quietly disappeared from the streets. The TV channels alternatively berated the state LF government for not putting in enough of a forceful presence, and criticising it for calling out of the units of the rapid action force police units. The self-styled freethinking members of the civil society’ expectedly followed suit on the air. Only when newspersons started to be targeted did the TV channels turned a trifle more sober and veered albeit but in bits and bytes, from a reportage provocateur.
The afternoon saw the CPI(M) organising a large number of lengthy peace marches with participation from all communities. The moment the peace marches started to happen, lumpens and miscreants preferred to disappear gradually from the streets, taking shelter in the narrow lanes and by-lanes, but never daring to come out. The marchers walked through areas that were strewn with stones, bricks, and fragments of glass, and where the smell of burnt vehicles hung acrid in the air. Normalcy started to return to the city by the middle of the afternoon. By then, the state LF government had called out six companies of the army (25 each to a column) to organise route marches along the streets of Kolkata. (B Prasant)