August 27, 2023
WB: Jailed Leaders in Jalpaiguri Released on Bail

Subinoy Moulik

TAKING a cue from Mamata Banerjee’s remarks before the press on August 14 blaming the "Marxists", specifically CPI(M), for the Jadavpur University student’s ragging death, the Jalpaiguri unit of Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (TMCP) assembled anti-social elements and rowdies, and on the pretext of staging a dharna in front of the district SFI office, attacked and vandalised the CPI(M) Jalpaiguri district party office, Subodh Sen Bhavan, on August 16. A few days ahead of the Dhupguri assembly by-election, a violent mob armed with sticks, stones, bottles and anything and everything that could harm attacked the Jalpaiguri district committee office in a planned manner injuring a number of SFI activists who stepped forward to ward off the attack. Windows were smashed, locks broken, furniture damaged as the hooligans went on the rampage. While the assaults took place, policemen stood as silent spectators on the main road.

Despite the whole incident happening in front of the police, the police did not arrest the Trinamool miscreants. They detained some of them and took them to the police station and released them soon after. Instead of arresting the assaulters, the police arrested the senior leaders of the party and mass organisations and took them into judicial custody on non-bailable charges. Ziaul Alam, CPI(M) state secretariat member, the general secretary of the All India Plantation Workers Federation (AIPWF) and a CITU national working committee member, was among the five arrested on flimsy and unsubstantiated grounds. Also arrested were Party district secretariat member Piyush Mishra, district committee member Tamal Chakraborty, ABTA Jalpaiguri district committee secretary Prasenjit Roy and ABTA district leader Jyotibikash Kar. Kar was arrested at Jalpaiguri Government Medical College premises where he had gone to see his wife who was injured in the attack and was receiving treatment.

With the Dhupguri assembly bypolls just round the corner, election campaigning is in full swing in favor of eminent Bhawaiya singer Ishwar Chandra Roy, the CPI (M) candidate who has been almost unanimously nominated by the anti-Trinamool and anti-BJP opposition parties. Already the Trinamool Congress has started disrupting the candidate's campaign in its characteristic manner. Jalpaiguri district secretary of CPI(M) Salil Acharya was on election campaign work in Dhupguri that day. He rushed to the district party office in the night after receiving the news of the attack and told the police that if CPI(M) leaders are not released immediately, the party will be forced to embark on a larger movement.


Elaborating on the incident, Acharya told journalists that Trinamool Chhatra Parishad leaders along with miscreants had attacked the district CPI(M) office in front of the police force. At first the SFI workers were attacked and they tried to put up a resistance. Youth activists and trade union leaders were also attacked while trying to protect them. Uniformed policemen had acted in a partial and biased manner and arrested party leaders in front of the CPI(M) district office. We have asked all party workers, including students and the youth, to exercise restraint, but if the administration does not arrest the miscreants of the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad, the people of the district will not remain silent. The police administration will be responsible for the consequences. We are keeping a close eye on the situation.

The district office of SFI and the district office of CPI(M) are at the same place in Jalpaiguri town. According to eyewitness reports, the attack was part of a pre-planned operation. Although the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad was supposed to hold a rally on the Jadavpur incident at seven o’clock in the evening, they took time for the gathering of armed miscreants. Then after 8 pm the miscreants of Trinamool Chhatra Parishad came directly in front of Subodh Sen Bhavan armed with bamboo sticks and, without any provocation, encircled the party office. That the police force posted in front of Subodh Sen Bhavan knew the plan of this attack in advance was evident from their complete inaction. Right in front of them the vandalism continued unabated till night, by which time SFI and party workers getting the news also rushed in and gathered in front of Subodh Sen Bhavan. Student and youth activists joined the resistance. Once the confrontation began the police stirred into action and pushed the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad and SFI workers away from each other. After a while, the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad started throwing stones and glass bottles in front of the police. SFI workers were forced to put up a resistance with determination and quite a few were injured.

In the night, when the injured SFI workers were taken to Jalpaiguri Medical College in an ambulance for treatment, the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad workers once again attacked the SFI workers. There the SFI workers supported by the hospital staff protested and made the Trinamool-backed goons leave the hospital complex under compulsion.

Notably, whatever happened in front of the party office took place freely despite the presence of a large police force under the command of Additional Superintendent of Police, Jalpaiguri. Questions have been raised about this role of the administration. After keeping the five arrested leaders in the police station overnight the police brought them to court which remanded them in jail custody till August 21. Many party workers rushed to the district office to protest the attack and arrest of party leaders on Wednesday night. Former MP Jiten Das went to meet the party leaders detained at the police station. In the morning district secretary Salil Acharya and others met the detainees. Party leaders including CPI(M) Darjeeling district secretary Saman Pathak rushed from Siliguri after hearing the news. The party leaders were also present when the arrested party leaders were brought to the Jalpaiguri district court.

This detention and remand triggered demonstrations across Jalpaiguri and elsewhere. Protests were held across West Bengal condemning the arrest of CITU leader Ziaul Alam. Protests and sit-ins were held across North Bengal, including Siliguri, against the Trinamool attack on the district office and the unjust arrest of the party leadership. In Siliguri, member of the state secretariat of CPI(M) Jibesh Sarkar held a press conference and said that the incident was very worrying and reprehensible. In 2013, in a similar manner, the Trinamool-backed goons had attacked the CPI(M) district office, Anil Biswas Bhavan, on Hilkart Road in Siliguri, with the collusion of the police. A total of 52 persons including the party leadership were wrongfully arrested after vandalizing the district party office. We remember that experience, he said.


On August 17 evening a protest rally of thousands of people marched around Jalpaiguri town raising slogans against police partisanship and Trinamool brutality. When the march moved towards Jalpaiguri Kotwali police station, the police barricaded the procession. RAF and armed police were deployed in front of the barricade to stop the angry protest march. Left and Congress workers continued their peaceful protest in front of the police barricade in front of the police station. The Left-Congress workers demanded immediate withdrawal of the false case and the release of the party leaders. Jalpaiguri town came to a standstill on Thursday evening with this huge procession. Forward Bloc state president Govinda Roy, CPI (ML) leader Pradeep Goswami, Indian National Congress Jalpaiguri district president Pinaki Sengupta, CPI(M) Jalpaiguri district secretariat member Kaushik Bhattacharya, RSP district leader Prakash Roy and many other Left-Congress leaders participated in the massive rally.

Left leaders said that if a political party had faith in democracy, it could never attack the office of another political party like this. But due to pressure from the ruling party, the police arrested our party leaders instead of arresting the attackers. If this false case against the CPI(M) leaders is not withdrawn, the fight against the servile police will intensify in the coming days. The march has proved beyond doubt that the people of Jalpaiguri have not forgotten the voice of protest. Speaking to reporters at Alipurduar on August 18, the Party’s state secretary Md. Salim said that our Party leaders had been charged with non-bailable clauses saying they wanted to kill the police. Police must first answer why they came to the CPI(M) office. The Trinamool miscreants came to attack the party office, so the police came. So why did they release the attackers? Why would such an attack happen, in the first place? Why would the police side with the attackers? We will fight the legal battle as well as continue to fight on the streets to free our party leaders, tea workers’ movement leaders and teacher leaders.

The civil society of Jalpaiguri erupted in a strong reaction against this unjust and undemocratic arrest. A storm of condemnation rose throughout the town. People unitedly took to the streets and the social media to say that there was no such cult of violence in the name of politics in Jalpaiguri. Such an incident has never happened in the political culture of Jalpaiguri. They also condemned the servile behavior of the police administration. According to many, this unwanted action of the police was aimed at creating obstacles in the campaign of opposition candidates in Dhupguri.

Different sections of workers including tea plantation workers raised their voices across the state against this unjust arrest. CITU and other trade unions organised a central march in Kolkata to protest the attack and demand the unconditional release of the arrested leaders on August 21st afternoon.

After spending four days in jail, all five were released on bail on August 21. A huge rally greeted them, waving red flags, shouting slogans and sprinkling the celebratory red gulal. The released leaders congratulated the people of Jalpaiguri and the whole state on their united protest. Speaking to the press, Ziaul Alam said it is high time a section of police should realise that their qualification should be their integrity and not servility to political masters. He said in spite of all repression, in spite of arrests of leading workers, harassment in false cases and everything else, the struggle for democratic, corruption-free, pro-people governance in Bengal shall be carried forward.