Thousands court arrest as Left protests price rise (Intro Roundup)

April 8th, 2010 - 7:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) Thousands of Left activists and leaders courted arrest across the country - barring Left-ruled West Bengal and Kerala - as part of a nationwide campaign against rising prices, leaders from various parties said.
West Bengal and Kerala saw mass picketing and demonstrations in front of central government offices to protest against what the Communists said was New Delhi’s failure to check rising prices of essential commodities. However, in Left-ruled Tripura, party activists also courted arrest as they protested outside central government offices.

The protests took place in virtually every state, from Jammu and Kashmir to Kerala and from Gujarat to Assam. Party veterans hit out at the central government for the “back-breaking cost of living” which they said had hit the common man hard.

Thursday’s “jail bharo” (fill the jails) campaign was launched by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Communist Party of India (CPI), Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), which have become trenchant critics of the Congress-led government.

“The government has failed to curb the shooting prices of food and other essential commodities,” CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat thundered at a rally of about 5,000 people in the heart of Delhi. “A government which spoke about ‘aam aadmi’ (ordinary man) has failed to save the ‘aam aadmi’.”

Forward Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas told IANS that the number of people who took part in the protests and who courted arrest had crossed the target of 25 lakh.

Biswas and Karat along with A.B. Bardhan of CPI and Abani Roy of RSP - the best known Left faces - courted arrest near the Jantar Mantar observatory after the police prevented them from marching to parliament.

“In Delhi alone, 5,000 to 6,000 people participated in the agitation,” said Biswas.

Police used water cannons to disperse the protesters when they tried to cross police barricades.

In his speech, Karat asked the government to strengthen the public distribution system, implement land reforms and provide more employment opportunities.

In Patna, the protests were led by CPI-M politburo member Brinda Karat. Hundreds, including Karat, were arrested for blocking roads.

However, the participation in protests in Thiruvananthapuram, the Left-ruled Kerala’s capital, was poor. Only 700 people showed up at two points. But workers and leaders took to the streets elsewhere in the state.

In Tripura, an estimated 150,000 men and women led by Communist Party of India-Marxist state secretary Bijon Dhar and party’s central committee member and MP Khagen Das courted arrest in 55 places across the state.

Hundreds of activists of the CPI-M held a protest rally in Jammu and Srinagar cities.

The activists led by state general secretary and legislator M.Y. Tarigami gathered at the Press Colony in Srinagar shouting slogans against price rise.

“The skyrocketing prices have taken place because of the wrong policies of the central government,” Tarigami said.

In Himachal Pradesh, hundreds of CPI-M activists were arrested across the state, police said. Life was hit in Shimla, Mandi and Hamirpur.

In West Bengal, thousands of Left Front supporters picketed in front of the Income Tax Office in Kolkata’s Esplanade area. Communists also carried out similar protests in other districts of the state.

“A meeting of the leaders of Left parties and secular parties will be held April 12 to decide further course of action,” Prakash Karat said.

Biswas said the Left parties had started consultations with almost all parties barring the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to further strengthen the movement against the Congress-led government’s “anti-people policies”.

Left sources said they were in touch with the Telugu Desam Party, Janata Dal-Secular, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal, all of which are expected to attend the April 12 meeting to discuss a joint strategy in parliament, informed sources said.

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