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Mood changing, people now ready to defy bandhs

Mood changing, people now ready to defy bandhs

Author: Express News Service
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: June 7, 2008
URL: http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Mood-changing-people-now-ready-to-defy-bandhs/319816/

As industry and the service sector is picking up in Bengal, public mood seems to be turning slowly against bandhs. Where harsh words from the courts criticising the bandh culture of the political parties failed to have much effect, reports of last two days from across the state shows that people across party lines have begun to rebuff strikes and strikers.

If passengers of Darjeeling Mail prevented fellow traveller and minister Ashok Bhattacharya on Thursday from switching to a car to avoid bandh supporters blocking the train - over a thousand passengers of another train removed another CPM blockade and forced the railways to take the train to its destination.

According to officials in Siliguri, the North Bengal-bound Uttar Banga Express, which left Kolkata on Wednesday evening, was stopped by CPM supporters first at Aluabari in North Dinajpur district at 6.30 am on Thursday. Passengers got off the train and requested the picketers to clear the railway tracks. When persuasion failed, nearly 1,200 passengers chased away the 20-odd CPM bandh supporters and got the train to start moving again at 8.30 am. Fifteen minutes later, the train stopped again at Rangapani station due to a signal. According to sources, after nearly 30 minutes, some passengers approached the station master and requested him to clear the line.

The station master said some people were blocking the line at a level crossing 1.5 km ahead, and that he was not in a position to change the signal.

The passengers lost their cool and ransacked the station. The station master, alongwith the other staff and the small Railway Protection Force contingent fled to the nearest police station at Phansidewa.

A big police contingent had to be despatched to Rangapani station. But the passengers were adamant and compelled the police to remove the 50-odd people blocking the tracks.

The train finally reached New Jalpaiguri at 1pm - five hours behind schedule - but five hours before the bandh ended.

These two incidents, involving two long-distance trains, were the most important displays of people's power reported during the bandh. But scores of others showed that even in the cities and small towns, people are ready to defy bandh supporters ¿ be is sponsored by the ruling party or the Opposition. Today, in Kolkata, while shops and major markets remained closed, hundreds went about their business on cycles and motorcycles. Or they just walked.

Confronted with these reports, CPM state secretary Biman Bose was prompt to sympathise with passengers of trains held up by bandh supporters. "I am sorry about the suffering faced by the passengers," Bose told reporters. Minister Bhattacharya, who was forced to stay on the blocked train when his plan to board a car was foiled, said: "Truly, when passengers of a long-distance train are stuck, they suffer a lot."

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