Kolkata, Sep 26 : West Bengal on Wednesday witnessed sporadic violence and vandalism in some districts and disruption in train services during the BJP-sponsored 12-hour shutdown in the state.
Normal life though remained largely unaffected in the capital city and suburbs.
The shutdown’s impact was mostly felt in parts of North Dinajpur district where two youths were killed during a clash last week between agitating students and police over teachers’ recruitment at a state-run school.
The locals had claimed the youths died in police firing, but the latter denied it.
The Bharatiya Janata Party had called for Wednesday’s shutdown against the killings and demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The BJP supporters created road blockades by felling tree trunks and burning tyres in the Islampur area in the district. A number of state-run buses were vandalised and set on fire.
Women and youths, armed with bamboo sticks and iron rods, were seen obstructing the road traffic.
As the day progressed, clashes between ruling Trinamool Congress and BJP supporters were reported from various places, including Cooch Behar, South 24 Parganas and Nadia districts. The police resorted to baton charge and used tear gas to disperse the mob.
A large group of shutdown supporters clashed with the police in Malda’s Englishbazar area when the lawkeepers tried to remove a blockade. The mob pelted police vehicles with stones and chased away the cops with wooden sticks.
Train services were substantially disrupted in both Sealdah and Howrah divisions of the Eastern Railway.
Forty-two pairs of suburban trains were cancelled as agitators squatted on the tracks.
An unspecified number of state-run buses were vandalised in Howrah and Cooch Behar districts.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the BJP of creating disturbances, torturing people in the name of shutdown and claimed that people had rejected the shutdown.
“It (BJP) is a shameless party. The way its leaders are speaking… they brought hooligans from outside and killed two of my students… can this be the activity of a political party? Bengal people have now totally turned against the culture of shutdown,” said Banerjee, who is in Italy’s Milan to attract foreign investments to the state.
She said that attendance in the government offices was 95 per cent during the day, which is above the daily average.
In Kolkata, people hit the streets in the morning and many public and private buses, taxis, autos were seen plying normally on the roads. However, many shops remained closed.
A state bus was vandalised and set on fire in central Kolkata’s Brabourne Road in the afternoon.
The BJP leadership took out a rally in central Kolkata. Party’s state President Dilip Ghosh, state women’s wing President Locket Chatterjee and senior leader Rahul Sinha were present at the rally.
“We demand to know from the Chief Minister as to why innocent youths were killed by her police. We want to know why no action has been taken against the offenders so far,” Ghosh said while blaming the Trinamool Congress activists for the violence.
Another party leader Roopa Ganguly claimed the shutdown call had received spontaneous backing from the common people across the state.
“While buses are available, most of them are running empty… none of the buses remain empty during office hours on a normal day. This shows people are spontaneously supporting the shutdown,” Ganguly said.
The state government had earlier issued a circular that its offices would remain open on Wednesday and no leave would be granted. It also urged banks and educational institutions to remain open.
Additional police was deployed throughout the state to prevent violence.