Arambagh Even as Railway Minister and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee was gearing up to address a mammoth rally at Garbari ground in Arambagh, CPM and Trinamool Congress supporters clashed intermittently in the surrounding areas.
Trinamool supporters matched CPM cadres in strength and were seen wielding lathis just like their rivals. But amid this, the police remained a mute spectator.
Nine people were injured in the clashes and over a dozen vehicles were set on fire allegedly by CPM cadres who had set up blockades at various entry points to Arambagh to foil Banerjee’s rally.
Trinamool supporters also retaliated by setting ablaze two CPM party offices and ransacked a CPM camp near Arambagh. Some shops in the area were ransacked too.
Banerjee also got in touch with Union Home Minister P Chidambaram a number of times and informed him about the violence.
“There is no democracy in Bengal, just rule of CPM’s gun. I had to fight every inch of the way to reach the rally venue. Our supporters too had to endure attacks while they were on their way here,” said Banerjee and described how she was “gheraoed and threatened by CPM men” at Mayapur.
“After having reached here, it is evident that people have faith in me,” she added.
At Mayapur adjoining Khanakul road, around 500 CPM cadres, mostly women, had gathered. They gheraoed Banerjee’s 20-car convoy and shouted slogans like “Go back Mamata”.
The convoy, which was stuck for around five minutes, started moving only after a huge contingent of police arrived there and cleared the road.
After the rally ended, Banerjee stayed back till the evening to ensure that all her supporters return home safely.
Earlier in the day, incidents of violence were reported from Champadanga crossing on Tarakeshwar-Arambagh Road , 40 kms from Arambagh rally spot, where CPM cadres had put up a camp and a road blockade.
The blockade started around 12 pm and went on till 2 pm. Over 60 buses and other vehicles carrying Trinamool supporters from different districts towards the venue were left stranded in the blockade.
Ultimately, Trinamool supporters armed with bamboo sticks stormed the camp and ransacked it. This was done in the presence of a police contingent, which was placed there, but chose to stand idle.
In Bosontopur near Arambagh bus stand, 10 buses and two Maruti vans carrying Trinamool supporters were ransacked. Bombs were hurled even near the rally venue.
“Nine persons were admitted today with one being critical. But I do not know the nature of their injuries or to which political party they belong,” said Animesh Dutta, superintendent of Arambagh sub-divisional hospital.
While Trinamool blamed the CPM for stopping its supporters from attending the rally, the latter alleged that the Opposition initiated the violence.
“The Trinamool supporters were armed. They attacked our supporters and our party offices. They even ransacked shops in various areas. We are lodging an FIR with police regarding this,” said Muzammel Hussain, CPM zonal secretary of Arambagh.