People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 48

December 02, 2007



Role Of Trinamul Congress Goons Exposed


Army staging a march past in Kolkata amid burning vehicles


B Prasant


THE violence unleashed in some areas of central Kolkata was a planned effort that involved the Trinamul Congress and the Pradesh Congress. They bolstered the presence of elements of fundamentalism and worked behind the façade of the Minorities’ Forum. The daily Ganashakti front-paged a photo that showed four notorious history-sheeters of the Trinamul Congress, involved in murder, shooting, arson, and looting, in action on the day.


The Trinamul Congress had a ready support from the Pradesh Congress several of whose leaders were seen moving around in SUVs along the lanes and by-lanes of the Park Circus-Beniapukur area in the morning of the violence. The convenor of the Minorities’ Forum is a leader of the minorities’ cell of the Pradesh Congress. Bringing up the rear were two fundamentalist outfits, the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), and the Students’ Islamic Organisation of India (SIOI).


The ultimate aim of the organised violence in those areas of the city that have mixed population was a communal riot. In this the miscreants and their political patrons failed, and failed comprehensively. As a regular rambler traversing the narrow gullies of central Kolkata en route to and from the Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan, one was able to witness at first hand the pattern of the violence that developed.




The morning started innocuously enough. The Minorities’ Forum assembled hundred-odd men who went in a procession towards the Park Circus seven-point crossing and then moved towards the CIT Road. They courted arrest and were duly released on signing surety bonds. The police must have had a prior inkling that the day would not follow the calm of the morning and we saw a massive police bandobast quite outnumbering the trickle of marchers mustered by the Minorities’ Forum. As we started to cross the CIT Road and walked towards the Pudmapukur, things started to happen.


Young men, hundreds of them, faces heavily swabbed in towels, mufflers, and scarves started to pour out from the side streets, shouting obscenities and profanities against the CPI(M) and the Bengal LF government. They swooped on to the middle of the road and started to pelt passing and parked vehicles with a flurry of stones, brickbats (all carried in separate gunny bags), and then, a section of the stave-carrying hooligans plonked themselves down with impunity on various spots of the road and had the busy morning traffic grind to a halt.


The traffic snarls started to develop immediately, and vehicles started to be abandoned as the loud explosions commenced with crude bombs being lobbed indiscriminately around. The police temporarily outnumbered, rushed in reinforcements but they showed restraint in the face of taunts, shoves, and worse, razor slashing. The police would limit their role to pushing the onrushing villains back and confine them to a small area, but would not fall into the trap set for them. We crossed into the kilometre-long Mufidul Islam Lane that connects the Ripon Street-A J C Bose Road crossing. The Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan is a short hop away.


An intriguing spider-web network of lanes and gullies narrow enough to allow only a single car to make its way gingerly along, horns a-honk, the entire area has an overgrown and slightly decadent look. We never associated violence with the peaceful locales that we have walked across and through, for decades now. As the thud of bombs reverberated across the old and shoddy houses leaning in a crowded way over one another, and the eyes and nostrils started to smart suddenly with smoke from tear gas shells now being lobbed by the rapid action force, starting to roll in, we suddenly realised that the familiar faces were gone. Just vanished — gone from the entire area. No cheery exchanges of the traditional greetings of salaam walikum awaited us this morning.




Instead, we saw silently, menacingly rushing past us - and shoving us away rudely in the process - hundreds of young men, faces covered, carrying a great number of large tin cans. A look convinced us what the tin cans contained. The area is a vast hinterland of supplies and spares for the thriving leather-and-shoes market across the Pudmapukur crossing at Birsulhaat. The narrow lanes and by-lanes are stuffed with shops that have a vast stock of a very, very flammable adhesive based on nitro-cellulose (NC) lacquer. The adhesives once set on fire would roar out in spearheads of persistent flame that would not die down even if hosed with jets of water.


By the time, we stepped into angular crossing where Mufidul Islam Lane crosses the Cantopher Lane in a familiar tangent, we saw with shock and revulsion dozens of parked vehicles, and vehicles forcibly stopped, being set on fire using the cans of adhesive. The technique was straightforward if filled with menace. The young men, now strident with their profane slogans against the CPI(M), would puncture a hole in the tin can top, drop a single lighted matchstick down the hole, and quickly throw it inside the vehicle that would promptly burst into flames. The fierce heat generated would keep all attempts to put out the flames at bay.


The police had massed at the crossing and first lathi-charged and then fired tear gas shells to prevent a large mob from moving towards the Muzaffar Ahmad Bhavan. The police personnel soon started to be brick-batted heavily. Bombs exploded in their dozens and in clusters. Bare-torso young men would sneak out from the side lanes, hurl brickbats and bombs on the police and then rush back, and temporarily disappear. It goes to the credit of the Kolkata police units that they would silently bear the attacks as well as the searing taunts the hooligans would subject them to and the villains would repeatedly and loudly throw challenges to the police to harm them if they so dared.




The wanton violence went on and spread across the mixed areas. The danger of sparking off a communal clash was taking a fearful shape. The police kept up their lathi charges and kept lobbing tear gas shells. Nevertheless, the goons would not go away. They waited and waited for the police to open fire and then start to attack neighbourhoods and localities.


That never happened. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee finally chose to call in the army. The news floating in over the cell phones glued to the ears of the leaders of marauding mobsters in different parts of central Kolkata from the Park Circus connector to the Ripon Street-Eliot Road localities, that the army columns have started to go in for a route march and were on the way, saw the hooligans vanish – and they never returned. The evening saw curfew imposed in areas that were the storm centers of hooliganism.




Kolkata breathed a sigh of relief. Expectedly for this old metropolis, normalcy returned the next day. The curfew was taken off. The army went back into their barracks. As we rambled across the areas hit by unrest, the next morning, we saw that the old faces were back. The cheery salutations were in place. The hum of business had resumed as if nothing had happened in between.


However, underfoot, a wide swathe marked with shards of glass was a tell-tale reminder of what could have happened. The smell of cordite from the bomb explosions hanging in the air still worried the denizens. The burnt out and ransacked offices of the CPI(M) in the area bore testimony to a day when hooligans, backed by the Bengal opposition, had tried to organise a break through, and had failed.


As Buddhadeb told the media, it was a single, dark afternoon of shame for Kolkata. Biman Basu, Bengal secretary of the CPI(M) called upon the people to remain ever vigilant. In the meanwhile, Kolkata is back to her old, laid back, comforting self and life goes on in its rhythm of reassuring familiarity.