Police State in the making?

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Najib Anwar

Pray, what else can we say? Police barbarity has reached new levels in West Bengal. On Saturday, the police resorted to brutal lathicharge and firing tear gas shells without any provocation on a peaceful sit- in demonstration led by ISF in the heart of Kolkata.

21 January is the foundation day of Indian Secular Front (ISF). It had called a public meeting at Dharmatala area of Central Kolkata. But for past few days the ruling Trinamool Congress had been threatening ISF workers and sympathizers not to attend the rally. It was particularly evident in North and South 24 Parganas, where ISF has a strong base. The Chairman of the party Md Nawsad Siddiqui is elected from the Bhangar assembly constituency, which falls under South 24 Parganas adjoining Kolkata. The goons led by Arabul Islam, a local Trinamool Congress leader had been intimidating ISF workers for the past few days. They had also injured three workers on Friday. On the morning of the 21st, when the workers and sympathizers of ISF were preparing to come to the venue in Kolkata in small matador vans, these anti social elements blocked the road created a ruckus. When Nawsad Siddiqui got the news he rushed to the spot to rescue ISF workers. As soon as he reached the Hatishala 6th Lane, he was attacked by the goons. They started pelting stones incessantly and physically assaulted him, which was deadly. His car was ransacked. He also sustained injuries. Nevertheless, he was able to rescue the workers and came to the venue at around 2.30 pm. The meeting had already started at the Anis Khan Mancha. Party leadership along with some social workers, leaders from different organisational fronts were speaking. The road, where it was being held was jam-packed. Thousands of ISF sympathizers and supporters have already thronged to the venue from different districts. When Nawsad Siddiqui came to speak, he first narrated the incident at Hatishala and demanded immediate arrests of Arabul Islam and his cohorts. It was evident that police were mere spectators when this ugly incident took place. Nawsad alleged that he and his party are being targeted because they are raising issues of unprecedented corruption of the ruling party and also fighting against land mafias who are usurping the wetland in the vicinity of Bhangar. He cut short his speech and called all the people present there to move to the Chowringhee crossing and block the road peacefully. The demand was to arrest those culprits. But after a while police and RAF resorted to brutal lathicharge and lobbed teargas shells to disperse the crowd. It was completely unprovoked. Scores of people was injured in the melee. Eighteen people including Nawsad Siddiqui, Biswajit Maity, Nasiruddin Mir had been arrested and are still in the Lalbazar Central Lock up. Indian Secular Front strongly condemns this brutal assault. It is clear that the ruling party has turned democracy into a mockery in West Bengal, resorting to violence through its henchmen and police. It is fast turning into an authoritarian state, where the opposition’s voice is muzzled.

The state secretary of CPI(M) Md. Salim has condemned the police atrocities and demanded release of Nawsad Siddiqui and other ISF activists. In a statement he has said, there will be protest demonstration all through the state.

It is indeed a black day in the annals of democracy of West Bengal. Would our intellectuals hit the road against this police brutality? It seems to be a far fetched hope, at least, for now. But, hope die hard.



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