Traffic movement is disrupted as a private bus is torched on the busy VIP Road connecting the Kolkata airport and bandh supporters put up a blockade.
- Three other private vehicles are damaged in the area following which police lathicharge the protesters.
- In the neighbouring North 24 Parganas, roads are blocked at Kharda while the Gangasagar Express is held up at Agarpara station.
This, after the Bharatiya Janata Party called a 12-hour bandh in Bengal on Monday to protest against the price rise and other related issues.
The BJP in Bengal? Isn't it a misnomer, a paradox? One would be pardoned for thinking so, at least until Monday.
That day, the entire state watched in horror as BJP cadres unleashed an elaborate 'exercise' of violence, breaking car windscreens, ransacking shops and preventing people from joining work.
Interestingly, the police, the whole lot of them, failed to do anything.
Was it inefficiency or indifference; negligence or lack of coordination?
According to senior Congress leader Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury, "It will be a mistake to consider that it was the BJP that created the disturbance. The Communist Party of India-Marxist worked in collusion with the saffron brigade to throw life out of gear in Bengal."
Reason? Chowdhury states, "In the forthcoming assembly election in Bengal, the BJP can eat into some of the Trinamool Congress-Congress alliance votes. The pro-BJP votes will especially come in handy for the CPI-M in case of low-margin contests."
Mousumi Palit, a teacher at a private school in Kolkata, agreedsomewhat. "I was amazed to see only a handful of policemen at important roads whereas the city was heavily guarded during the recent bandh call by the Socialist Unity Centre of India. It is quite surprising that a few BJP cadres could bring the city to a standstill, with the police adopting the stance of curious onlookers."
For argument's sake, let us presume that the CPI-M worked in tandem with the BJP in disrupting life in Bengal on Monday.
The question is: how safe are the people of Bengal on other days? Hasn't political violence become an inseparable part of life here?
Ever since the TC-Congress alliance ushered in 'winds of change' in the Lok Sabha polls in May, political clashes have become a way of life.
If a TMC worker gets killed in one area today, a CPI-M loyalist's body is found in another area tomorrow.
As 2009 draws to close, the almanac stays a mute witness to endless bloodshed that took place across West Bengal in this overtly eventful year.
Is this the change one sought? Is this what we wanted as we placed our trust on TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and her people?
Didn't we intend to put an end to 32-year old Left Front misrule and brutality? Then why can't we see an end to non-stop violence even six months after the Lok Sabha polls?
With the popular mandate ominously inclining towards the firebrand didi prior to the assembly polls, are we actually moving from the frying pan to the fire?
May be I am being cynical. May be it's too soon to make such a conjecture. In all probability, chaos will lead, who knows, to peace and order.
For the moment, let's console ourselves with what writer and activist Mahasweta Devi has said: 'Bengal needs a change in governance, come what may. This is not the time to question the opposition. Rather, we all must pave the way so that it can make a smooth entry.
'We should not feel scared of what's going to happen. We should take a good look at our rotten present and try out what's in the offing. Who knows, a system may evolve out of sheer 'madness'?'
As we indulge in sharing the Magsaysay winner's hope, our conceited minds cannot help borrowing from the American folk legend Pete Seeger:
If a revolution comes to my country
Let me remember now
I mean if bloody conflict rages
I better learn right now
How to catch and skin and cook a rat
How to boil a soup from weeds
And especially learn how to shareOh, hear the thunder. . .