On 5th June, 2008 the Left Front had called for a Bandh in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura – the three Indian states where they are in power – as a mark of protest against the Indian national government’s decision to hike the fuel price.
Quite naturally the common people had to face lots of troubles in the Bandh affected states, as they were forced to stay back at home by the “committed” supporters of Left Front. There was widespread hooliganism, like deflating of car tyres, forced stopping of cabs, and so on. A huge number of air and rail passengers got stranded in airports and railway platforms, with the elderly and little children having a really tough time.
However, a hapless minister of the West Bengal government himself got the taste of this hooliganism, when some passengers of the train - in which he himself was travelling – paid him back in the same coin.
The story goes like this –
P-power & party power - Blocked people block minister
Kishanganj/Siliguri, June 5: CPM minister Asok Bhattacharya got a taste of his party’s own medicine today when fellow passengers on a bandh-hit train refused to let him complete his journey by car.
The municipal affairs minister was virtually confined for eight hours on the New Jalpaiguri-bound Darjeeling Mail, stranded at Bihar’s Kishanganj station because of squatting up the line in Bengal.
“How does it feel now? The minister should get to know how the rest of us feel during these meaningless bandhs,” said Dilip Singh, 33, a salesman from Siliguri who was later arrested on the charge of misbehaving with Asok and given bail.
This is the second instance of CPM leaders getting a taste of people power this week. On Monday, a Calcutta crowd had egged a policeman on to book six-time MP Tarit Topdar’s driver after he broke traffic rules and then tried to pull rank.
CPM state secretary Biman Bose dismissed any suggestion of public anger against bandhs, saying: “Asok was stopped in Bihar.” The passengers of the Sealdah-NJP train, which briefly touches Bihar, were mostly from Bengal, though.
Saheli Bhattacharya was Siliguri-bound with her children, aged 8 and 11. “There was no food or water and the minister was about to leave; I and the others requested him to stay,” she said.
Asok, whose act of travelling conflicted with the party’s aim of paralysing the state, appeared to undermine the bandh further by pleading he had “important work” to finish. That infuriated Jalpaiguri-bound Biswajit Ganguly, who said: “He knew his party had called the bandh, yet he told us he had important work. Well, were the rest of us travelling for fun?”
Asok spent the hours reading a book on globalisation in his air-conditioned first-class coach till the journey resumed at 2.45pm. The train had arrived at Kishanganj at 6.45am but within 10 minutes, the station announced a delay because of squatting at Aluabari and Raninagar.
The minister immediately began flexing his political muscle. “I rang up party members… and got them to withdraw the (two) blockades. I informed the Katihar divisional railway manager (DRM) but no effort was made to get the train moving,” Asok said.
Around 10.30, Kishanganj police chief M.R. Nayak arrived with an extra car for the minister, upsetting the passengers. Nayak said he had merely offered to take the minister to the Circuit House, and Asok too later claimed he had no intention of making it to Siliguri by road.
Dilip was “threatening and abusive”, the minister said. “Some passengers led by this youth, who wore a red shirt, said they wouldn’t let me leave. He kept yelling and sneaked into my compartment.”
Even before this, some passengers had begun shouting at Asok, prompting Jalpaiguri police chief Tripurari — a co-passenger — to intervene.
At NJP, Dilip was charged with unlawful assembly, wrongful confinement and misbehaviour as Asok left for home in Siliguri. “I protested like the others,” Dilip said.
Katihar DRM Mehtab Singh said trains stranded up the line had delayed the green light to the Darjeeling Mail.
Source : The Telegraph (Calcutta Edition).
I am certainly not rejoicing the fact that the minister had to face such a bitter experience. What happened was certainly unfortunate. However, I feel that the incident was a boon in disguise, as it enabled the minister to realize the intensity of problems that the common people face due to such mindless political activities (like Bandh). While I feel that the passengers of that train could have launched their protest in a gentler manner, I can fully understand the frustration and grievance which made them come up with such a rare expression of public fury. This incident is a wake up call for all the political parties, who fail to gauge the extent of public dissatisfaction with all the offensive political activities lke Bandh.
By the way, I have a humble question for the West Bengal government. Mr Dilip, the passenger who reportedly instigated other passengers to heckle the minister was arrested by police, though later he was released on bail. Has the government taken any such such step against at least one of those Left Front supporters, who came up with tremendous misbehavior with the common people of West Bengal to ensure that the Bandh was successful?