A clash broke out between the police and Left Front supporters, who were marching towards the state secretariat to demand jobs for youth, in Howrah on Friday. At least 22 people were detained following the clash, but were released later.
Police fired tear gas shells, used water cannons and had to resort to lathicharge to disperse the Left supporters, who broke barricades and pelted the policemen with stones in turn.
The Left Front claimed that 62 supporters were injured in the clash, while police said five of their officers were wounded.
As many as 12 students’ and youth organisations, affiliated to the Left Front, had taken out a march to the state secretariat, Nabanna, from Singur in Hooghly district on Thursday. They also demanded industry across the state and end of corruption in the education sector.
They had made a halt at Dankuni on Thursday, and on Friday afternoon resumed the march from Howrah railway station to the state secretariat through Upper Foreshore Road.
However, a huge contingent of police, combat force and RAF personnel were deployed to prevent the protesters from marching forward.
The protesters, however, broke barricades and hurled stones at policemen, which led to a clash at Mullick Fatak area in Howrah. As protesters refused to budge from the area, police fired a round of tear gas shells and dispersed them.
The injured were taken to Howrah State General Hospital. The Left Front claimed that five out of the 62 injured were admitted to the hospital in a critical condition.
“We had come here unarmed, and yet the police used batons against us. We wanted to hold a peaceful march to the state secretariat to demand jobs for youth,” said an injured student.
The police, however, said only five Left protesters were injured in the clash.
“We have arrested 22 protesters following the agitation. Five of them were injured, while five policemen also sustained injuries. Three of them were admitted to a hospital,” said a senior officer of Howrah police station.
However, hospital sources said over 50 injured protesters were brought in for treatment.
Director General of Police Virendra, however, said the Left Front’s progamme was peaceful. “I have not yet heard about the lathicharge.
What I have heard is that there was a programme in Howrah, which has been concluded peacefully,” he told reporters.
To protest against Friday’s police action, the Left Front has decided to observe “black day” across West Bengal in the next two days and will hold protests in various places.
Senior CPM leader Mohammad Salim slammed the Mamata Banerjee government and the police for using force against unarmed Left supporters.
“Today with the help of police and TMC goons, Mamata Banerjee government attacked our student and youth members. They had held the march to the state secretariat to submit deputations to the chief minister to demand jobs for unemployed youth. They even had applications of job seekers, which they wanted to submit as well. Instead of listening to them, the government sent police to control them.
There were TMC goons there who threw stones and bricks at policemen from terrace of nearby houses to egg the policemen to charge on Left supporters. Mamata Banerjee is playing with fire and there will be protests across the state in the next two days,” Salim told reporters.
Late in the evening, Left Front chairman Biman Bose visited the injured protesters at the hospital.
“The police told us that they would allow a five-member delegation to visit the state secretariat. We told them not to beat us up as we want to submit list of names who have been rendered unemployed in the state. Instead of allowing the delegation to proceed, they attacked us with lathis,” said another protesting students.
The TMC, meanwhile, criticised the Left Front for organising such a violent protest.
“Left Front is very much aware of its position in Bengal. They are trying to organise violent protests against the Mamata Banerjee government to prove its existence,” said senior TMC leader Tapas Roy.