WEST Bengal has witnessed a week of militant protests, resulting in street battles with police, attacks on protestors, police brutality, but above all resistance from students, youth, women and workers.
On February 15, the SFI marched in Kolkata demanding elected students’ unions. The state government has proposed nominated students’ councils in colleges and universities, robbing the democratic rights of students to elect their representatives. This decision has in fact started the process of de-unionisation. This, added to ruling party terror in educational institutions, has created an anarchic situation. A large rally started from Sealdaha station towards Raj Bhavan. Thousands of students participated in the rally. The rally reverberated with slogans like ‘No to council, Yes to Union’, ‘We will give blood but will not surrender Union’. Police tried to block the rally as it entered Esplanade. The entrance to Rani Rasmoni Road was blocked by railings. The militant students rushed through those railings but the police put up steel barricades on Rani Rasmoni Road. As the rally surged forward, police started using batons from their side of barricades. It ignited the students anger and counter resistance started. Many students were injured in the police lathi-charge including SFI state secretary Srijan Bhattacharya. SFI leader Riya Dey suffered injuries in her eyes. Seven activists were later admitted to a hospital. Despite this attack, students moved forward and the police was forced to retreat and allow SFI delegation to go to Raj Bhavan, the governors’ house. A memorandum signed by 92 thousand students was submitted to the governor. A copy of the state government’s order for council was torn on the road.
On February 16, the DYFI organised a rail roko throughout the state. This was an all India call, which was observed on 13th in other states. In West Bengal, SFI, AIDWA and some other democratic organisations joined the demonstration. The demands included filling up vacant posts in Indian Railways, increase of upper limit of age for application, against privatisation in railways, protesting stoppage of trains on eight routes in the state. Hundreds of protestors gathered at rail stations or on tracks and blocked trains from the morning. The programme was observed throughout the state.
They had to face attack from the TMC gangs in many areas. Though the call of the protest was mainly directed against the central government, TMC chased the protestors in many stations, including Dhakuria in Kolkata. The most heinous incident took place in Jadavpur station. During the blockade, a train refused to stop and moved forward forcing the protestors to jump away from tracks. Many of them suffered injuries. Three activists of AIDWA suffered serious injuries and were admitted to a hospital. One of them, Jharna Nadi has suffered fractures in ribs. Hearing this news, hundreds of youth and students reached Jadavpur and started a gherao in the station itself. Protest demonstrations started. Railway authorities were forced to admit the mistake in writing.
In Siuri, the rapid action forces obstructed the protestors from approaching railway tracks, triggering a scuffle. In Adra, police threatened to fire. DYFI all India general secretary Avoy Mukherjee was threatened with dire consequences.
On February 20, the central trade unions gave a call for ‘jail bharo’, protesting against the anti-people policies of the centre and state governments. Left Front and the allies supported the call. In Kolkata, thousands of workers marched in a rally, attended by the CITU, AITUC, INTUC, UTUC, TUCC leaders, along with leaders from other organisations. The march reached Rani Rasmoni Road where scuffle with the police started. Meanwhile, a group of protestors surprised the police and reached Raj Bhavan. Police arrested them. Hundreds of participants were arrested in Kolkata.
In Uluberia in Howrah district, police brutally charged batons on the protestors. Even women were not spared. Workers bravely put up a resistance and fought a pitched battle. In Asansol, a huge rally roared through police barricades. In Midnapore town, police resorted to brutality and started beating up even before the procession started. In Purulia, protestors broke through two barricades. In Siuri, workers faced lathi-charge though they stood ground. In Burdwan, a scuffle ensued when police charged on protestors. Workers blocked road. In Coochbehar, Balurghat too militant protestors faced police attack. In Siliguri, workers marched overcoming police barricades.
CPI(M) state secretary Surjyakanta Misra congratulated the fighting spirit of the students, youth and workers and asserted that peoples’ protest would continue to grow in West Bengal.