Shutdown hits normal life, traffic in West Bengal districts

November 16th, 2008 - 8:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Nov 16 (IANS) Three West Bengal districts that share border with Jharkhand were paralysed with a 12-hour shutdown Sunday that also affected train services and vehicular movement following a call by the Jharkhand Disum Party. The Jharkhand Disum Party (JDP) has sought the three West Bengal districts of West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia to be merged into Jharkhand, and has also protested alleged police atrocities on tribals in the region.

The JDP agitators, who brought the vehicular traffic in the region to a halt, alleged police atrocities on tribals in Lalgarh of West Midnapore district following the Nov 2 Maoist landmine blast at Bhadutala, targeting Chief Minister Buddhadevb Bhattacharjee.

The agitators also enforced a shutdown in Bankura and Purulia districts affecting normal life.

Reports from the districts said the administration made little effort to maintain normalcy.

Many long-distance and local trains were cancelled and several others like the Howrah-Delhi Poorva Express, Howrah-Amritsar Amritsar Mail, Sealdah-New Alipurduar Kanchankanya Express were delayed as agitators squatted on the railway tracks at various stations, railway sources said.

In West Midnapore, shops and business establishments downed shutters in Lalgarh and Salboni, while vehicles did not ply on the roads.

The shutdown only partially impacted Bankura, though southern parts of the district were more affected.

The districts also reported sporadic clashes between activists of the JDP and ruling Left Front partner Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

Reports from Taldangra in Bankura said shutdown supporters burnt down a motorcycle and damaged several cars. One CPI-M supporter was also injured when he was hit by an arrow.

Meanwhile, the tribal unrest at Lalgarh, Jamboni and Jhargram areas of West Midnapore district against the “police sxcesses” continued as some more roads were blocked with tree trunks.

The tribals are incensed as the policemen investigating the landmine attack have allegedly been torturing women and making “indiscriminate” arrests.

The National Highway 6, connecting Kolkata with Gujarat, was blocked near Lodhasuli, even as the administration continued to avoid confrontation.

Earlier, the tribals demanded that the district police superintendent hold his ears and apologise for the police “torture”, halt police raids after sunset, release all those arrested after the blast and pay Rs.200,000 compensation to each of the women allegedly injured in the police action.

The administration has turned down some of the demands, but agreed to consider the rest.

Thousands of residents, including women and children, quatted on dug up roads in Lalgarh last week and blocked all approach roads to Lalgarh.

Trouble began at Lalgarh after the district police arrested some school students and allegedly harassed tribal women after the landmine blast that went off when the convoy of Union Ministers Ram Vilas Paswan and Jitin Prasada and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was passing through Bhadutala. They had a narrow escape.

Villagers allege that the police often arrested people on suspicion of being Maoists. They claimed that the police entered tribal homes at midnight and beat up women in the course of their investigation.

The landmine exploded close to Paswan’s security vehicle near Salboni, injuring six policemen of a pilot car.

The convoy was returning after inauguration of JSW Steel’s mega 10 milion tonnes steel plant at Salboni.

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