At least 10 cops were injured, six police vehicles torched, buses attacked and crude bombs recovered from a rail track in the nick of time as parts of Bengal lapsed into violence during Wednesday's Bharat Bandh, called by the Left and Congress-backed central trade unions against the Union government's "anti-people policies". While there was a flare-up in Bengal, scattered protests marked the nationwide strike elsewhere, with minimal impact on normal life.
Sujapur in Malda was the epicentre of the violence, although both CPM and Congress functionaries claimed the bandh was "peaceful and total" throughout the district. The trigger was apparently a blockade of NH-34, which connects north and south Bengal. Hundreds of CPM and Congress supporters had assembled on the highway at 10am and refused to budge, stalling traffic all along the route.
When persuasion didn't work, the police allegedly resorted to lathicharge to disperse the protesters. They retaliated with a shower of stones and a bricks that left 10 of the police personnel injured. The mob also set fire to six police vehicles and a nearby hotel, besides ransacking buses and private cars.
"The violence at Sujapur occurred at the instigation of police and Trinamool," CPM leader Ambar Mitra alleged. "The strike was otherwise total and peaceful in Malda, sending a message to both BJP and Trinamool."
In the evening, a video purportedly shot in Sujapur during the bandh surfaced on social media, showing men in khaki and other uniform attacking vehicles, including SUVs and small goods carriers, parked along NH-34.
The clip also contains footage of the six torched police vehicles, but not of them being set ablaze. CPM functionary Mohammed Salim said the video was evidence of who was behind the violence. State education minister Partha Chatterjee promised "a departmental inquiry, while Malda SP Alok Rajoria said his department was still to verify whether the video was genuine or fake.
Closer to Kolkata, North 24-Parganas witnessed flashes of violence that included an alleged attempt to set off bombs planted on a rail track. Four crude bombs were spotted and removed from a track near Hridaypur station on the Sealdah-Bongaon section moments before a packed local train was to pass by around 7.30am.
Government Railway Police recovered more "live crude bombs" on rail tracks near the Barasat rail car shed, Ashokenagar and Habra in North 24-Parganas.
The day had started with a clash between supporters of CPM and Trinamool in Madhyamgram after the former allegedly deflated the tyres of a sand-laden truck going through Jessore Road. The Trinamool supporters were part of a procession against the bandh. The two sides came to blows on Madhyamgram Station Road before a large police contingent, including the RAF, intervened.
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